We here at OSA Magazine would like to welcome all new and returning students to our corner of the Oxford School of Architecture at Oxford Brookes University. We're spending our summer busily planning away events and publications for next year, so we're really excited for the term to come, and we hope you are to!
Oxford Brookes is an architecture school that is highly regarded by leading architecture firms, and provides a great standard of education. First year students have dedicated studios for their architectural foundation, and past that units (second and third year) and design studios (sixth year) share the same open plan spaces for a cross-pollination of ideas. Fifth year students have the unique opportunity to specialise in subjects related to architecture. All this comes together in our end of year show, a professional and carefully created celebration of the year's work. (Photos below published with permission of the Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment Marketing Team, Oxford Brookes.)
The school creates a community of related fields by including in its remit interior design, urban design, the Centre for Development and Emergency Practice, and much more. It's this willingness to come together and explore that led to the inception of OSA Magazine, a publication created for architecture students, by architecture students. We run a blog, publish physical magazines with student and staff work, and you can find us on social media. This year, we're encouraging new and returning students alike to get involved, investigate, review, and create.
OSA Magazine is only one of many reasons to love studying in Oxford - perhaps the most important being the city itself. If you're new to Oxford, you have a lot to look forward to. There are so many different aspects to the city that it's hard to know where to start. If you arrive early, and you'd like to take a look around, this guide will set you up.
Everyone has to start off with the classics. Just walk along the High Street or Broad Street and you’ll see incredible examples of the architecture that makes Oxford unique. But you’ll also get overwhelmed by tourists.
My recommendation is to visit Oxford at night. Head to James Gibbs’ Radcliffe Camera (or Rad Cam, to the locals) in the evening, and you’ll have that entire cobbled courtyard to yourself. You can peer into the All Souls Quad and check out University Church to your heart’s content. Keep an eye out for nights where the buildings are lit up, too - it’s always spectacular.
In terms of colleges to visit, everyone heads straight to Christchurch because scenes of Harry Potter were filmed there - but don’t be fooled by the tourist allure. There are plenty of places to go that are just as stunning and as historically important, and they don’t carry the same price tag or wait time. I myself have never managed to brave the seemingly mile long Christchurch queue, though the view from the meadows is not one to miss. Instead, visit Balliol or Magdalene for an authentic quad experience.
After something a little different? Check out Keble college for an outstanding use of brickwork, built in the nineteenth century. And, of course, don’t miss out on the Pitt Rivers Museum, housed next to the Natural History Museum in Deane and Woodward’s neo-gothic masterpiece.
Twentieth Century Oxford
In the late 20th century, the colleges of Oxford University went through a period of expansion - specifically in the creation of new accommodation buildings. This gave brutalist architects an incredible opportunity to work in Oxford’s historic centre - and they did not disappoint. Highlights include my personal favourite, the iconic Smithsons’ Garden Building at St Hilda’s College, and the accommodation building along the Lamb and Flag Passage, designed by Ove Arup and Partners.
For a more complete campus, head out to St Catherine’s College (St Catz). Arne Jacobsen’s Functionalist campus of now Listed buildings makes for a lovely walk. He even designed the surrounding gardens down to the tiny details.
Some of these buildings are not open to the public, especially accommodation buildings as the students need to be afforded some privacy. Rest assured - if you have an academic interest in studying the architecture and you write to the colleges they will almost certainly grant you access to the buildings - just give them a date that you want to visit and they’ll let the porters know to allow you in. You need to have a genuine reason to be visiting, though - be it an essay, or a case study for a project.
There are plenty of opportunities to be wowed by contemporary architecture in Oxford, even in the historic colleges where you’d perhaps think that modern architecture would be frowned upon. Take St Antony’s for example - Zaha Hadid has designed a curvaceous, shimmering intervention that bridges Victorian and Brutalist buildings. And at the Blavatnik School of Government, Herzog & de Meuron's new building takes the circular form of the Rad Cam to new, shining heights.
For a more spiritual experience, you should head out of Oxford proper to the Bishop Edward King Chapel by Niall McLaughlin Architects (visits on weekdays only, to be arranged in advance). The use of latticed timber and clerestory windows creates a unique contemplative experience.
Before you get on with exploring, I'd like to leave you with one final welcome. We hope to meet you soon - you can find us at fresher's fair and at our first week social, details to be announced. So watch this space!