• Kate Ridgeway

OSA REVIEW: Design Engine Architects, OxArch Resilience Lecture


Design Engine Architects, well known through the School of Architecture as the designers of the JHBB and the Abercrombie Building, offered their interpretation of the resilience theme as part of OxArch’s series. On the 20th February they presented a lecture based around their recently published book, Building Stories.

Diagram of the corten steel ribbon in the JHBB, Oxford Brookes

Credit: Design Engine Architects

The main narrative through the lecture examined the intricate and considered design process of Design Engine, dividing projects into different areas of design exploration - from colour to sequence to more abstract categories, such as wisdom. What became apparent through the discussion of these themes in their work was the importance of their design process as a way of setting themselves apart from other firms.

“Their integrity is what makes Design Engine such a successful practice -

by distinguishing their design process they create a unique level of professionalism,

a reason to employ them as a practice over others, and therefore,

a level of business resilience.”

Both their Gdansk Theatre project and the Photography Building for the Arts University Bournemouth use bespoke façade design to create a connection between the buildings function and aesthetics. For the Photography Building, an abstracted camera lens pattern was created, to be printed onto glass fins and act as an environmental barrier, diffusing light entering the space. The development of this surface pattern, though time-consuming, adds richness to the design and also creates a level of integrity to the process with a clear narrative from function to form. This integrity is what makes Design Engine such a successful practice - by distinguishing their design process they create a unique level of professionalism, a reason to employ them as a practice over others, and therefore, a level of business resilience.

Model of the theatre project in Gdansk, Poland

Credit: Design Engine Architects

As a building user of the John Henry Brookes Building and the Abercrombie Building at Oxford Brookes University, I think this integrity is apparent. Through the use of physical models as a medium to develop the design, the spaces within these buildings are designed to be understood three-dimensionally. The consideration of the design, from spatial configuration to the corten ribbon running through the building and the way the architecture interacts with and creates level changes within the site, has led to a highly successful building and an icon for the University.

The Photography Building for the Arts University Bournemouth

Credit: Design Engine Architects

The various projects and themes discussed in the lecture made it a very interesting listen.I found Design Engine’s use of design integrity as a method of business resilience incredibly inspiring in the context of an industry often viewed as selling itself short in its skill and professionalism.

#Resilience #OxArch #Practice #DesignEngineArchitects

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