Competition to win the attention of prospective university students has been growing for a number of years, as the value of higher education comes under intense scrutiny. Now institutions increasingly put their ambition to provide a holistic and transformational experience at the centre of their plans for new starters, and it’s this ethos that guided a redevelopment of the Clerici Building at Oxford Brookes.
The Clerici concept involved taking the University’s former main entrance building and transforming it into a new hub for teaching, learning and studying. This would provide a home for the institution’s Business School, various teaching rooms and the Sir Kenneth Wheare Hall— a flexible space for classes, events and graduations.
“It’s been absolutely fantastic to see students move in so quickly and use every inch of the building, particularly the social learning spaces,” says Tracy Panther, Associate Dean of Student Experience at the Business School. “You walk around and see happy smiling faces. Students are spending more time here because it is homely and comfortable, and that means they’re spending more time engaged with their studies.”
Modular flooring manufacturer Interface’s Concept Design team worked closely with the staff at Oxford Brookes to create multi-functional spaces which are both welcoming and conducive to learning. Some of the company’s sustainable and nature-inspired collections were used to bring that vision to life, and these work in harmony with furnishings, such as soft woods, fresh colours and patterns, reflecting biophilic design principles.
“It’s important that students have access to different settings, whether that’s somewhere to study or to socialise,” explains Laura Light, Concept Designer at Interface. “Being able to create different designs which enhance that aspect is really important. We knew we needed to be flexible and adaptable with our plans, while maintaining the impact of the flooring across wide spaces.
Interface’s Human Nature range has been used across Sir Kenneth Wheare Hall to help create a flexible and beautiful space which can be used for a number of purposes. These products are ideally suited to this main auditorium, which acts as both a high-traffic walkway linking the hall with the building’s Gateway, or main entrance, and a light and airy venue.
The structural link between these two areas is reinforced by Interface’s Composure range. Combined with the Human Nature products, the result is a subtle way-finding route between two parts of the building, creating an eye-catching but functional journey for students.
“The Sir Kenneth Wheare Hall is where our students get inducted and also where we host their graduations. Their whole cycle starts and finishes in that one room, so the design and feel of the space really help bring that together,” says Drew Hardie, Head of Space Planning at Oxford Brookes. “Clerici is a key building off our central courtyard which is used for social learning, teaching, meeting academics and research. If they can stay here because they like being in spaces at the university then we’ve done our job.”