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OSA Review: Design Engine, OxArch Reconstruction Lecture

Design Engine are an award winning practice, and their lecture for OxArch showed just how that level of design is achieved.

One of the recurring themes of the lecture was the sense of the importance of context. In projects like the Hubert Perrodo Building, the surrounding context was thoroughly analysed to interpret what features of the surrounding buildings could be adapted and echoed in the new design. The colour of the stonework and the vertical elements of the windows led to the ceramic sun shades of the new building's facade. These ceramic pieces were only able to be developed through close work with the manufacturer - innovation that Design Engine places a high importance on.

Image Credit: Design Engine Architects,

Focusing on the building itself, Design Engine employs traditional and well tested ideas about proportion and symmetry. The Charterhouse Science and Maths buildings demonstrate the use of the golden ratio and perfect squares, as well as the rhythm of the rising chimneys. These shapes originated from the concept of a scientific beaker, and are used to bring some of the verticality that exists across the site to a largely horizontal space.

Image Credit: Design Engine Architects,

Concepts are key to Design Engine's way of working - a strong design intent that works through the design process into the final building. For instance, in the John Henry Brookes building the motif of an oak tree was used throughout. An oak tree was historically used as a symbol of Oxford Brookes, grounding the new building in the university's past. Microscopic images of different parts of the tree formed the patterns for the holes in the corten panels, and the fritted glass.

Image Credit: Design Engine Architects,

Throughout the lecture it was clear that what makes Design Engine work as a practice is the focus and single-minded design intent that leads through the entire design process. The practice does not have a particular style, but it does have an integrity that ensures the right design for the situation.

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