Faculty of TDE, Oxford Brookes University

Background of the Helena Kennedy building

The former Helena Kennedy Building was constructed in the 1960s as the premises for the former Pergamon Press (part of the late Robert Maxwell’s printing empire). When the lease was acquired by OBU, the building became the student union, and offices. With the completion of the JHBB building, it was partly mothballed, and contained some faculty offices. The building was tired and uninspiring, and was voted by local residents as the ugliest building in Headington.

Building replacement

The aspirational brief for a new building, entitled the “Cathedral of Making”, envisions an inspirational space containing all of the hands-on practical maker spaces of the University. The building will bring together such space from Arts, Architecture, Computing, Mechanical Engineering and Built Environment Studies, and the goal is to break down the departmental silo’s, to create flexible “mash-up” spaces, where interdisciplinary experimentation and engagement can occur. The aim is to create a facility unlike any other in Oxford, and indeed to be unique with its combination of disciplines within the UK.

Set within the grounds of historic Headington Hill Hall, and replacing a redundant 1960s block, this project creates a ‘cathedral of making’ for Oxford Brookes University’s Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment (TDE).

Operating 24 hours a day, the building will provide state-of-the-art facilities for the varied creative disciplines of the faculty, including a robotics lab, fine arts studios, recording studios, a digital arts theatre, architecture and motion capture studios. Additionally it houses specialist engineering and automotive workshops, wind tunnels, casting and hot works rooms as well as social learning spaces and a café.

The building will significantly offset its users’ high power demand through on-site renewables, while eliminating carbon-emitting cooling plant through integration of automated natural ventilation systems that work in tandem with passive solar design.

Project implemented in 2020 with BGS Architects. 

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