Positive Outcomes of Creative Re-Use Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour, University of Oxford

Oliver Milton, Hawkins\Brown
Julia Roberts, Hawkins\Brown

Working in Oxford

Hawkins\Brown has been working with the University of Oxford for over a decade. In this time we have collaborated on 15 projects ranging in type, scale and function for the Said Business School and St. Hugh's College in addition to many University Faculties. That being said the majority of these projects are concentrated within the University's Science Area and form a significant part of their world-class research estate.

The University places value in its city-centre research community and with space at a premium it recognises the need to invest in its existing estate. Our ability to make the most of existing mid-century buildings as much as creating distinguished, contemporary facilities places us at the forefront of the HE sector in the UK and underpins our enduring relationship with the University of Oxford.

This presentation will concentrate on the refurbishment of the 1970s Tinsley Building. An excellent example of where an existing building can be modified and refurbished to provide world class research facilities similar to what is typically achievable in a new-build project, with few of the drawbacks normally associated with refurbishing an existing building. On this particular project Oliver and Rebecca began working with the University in 2008 and 9 years on maintain a close working relationship to monitor performance and ensure the building is meeting the client's needs.

The Tinsley Building

The 1970s Tinsley Building was refurbished for the founding of the Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour led by Gero Miesenböck FRS, Waynflete Professor of Physiology. Since its opening in 2011 it has attracted high profile researchers and their work to Oxford, with many coming from Europe and the United States. The scheme provides open plan laboratories along with specialist support spaces, research offices and seminar and administration accommodation.

The presentation as a case study will focus on three key challenges posed by this project and how the team worked to resolve these:

  • Adapting the building to the new use
  • Improving the energy performance
  • Rejuvenation and new life

Finally Oliver and Rebecca will discuss their continuing work with the University on their Midnight Oil Initiative and how a number of projects Hawkins\Brown has delivered over the years continue to feed back into the client's development strategy. The collection of this data underpins the work of the University's Capital Projects Team when considering existing estate management, future investments and sustainability whilst continuing to inform our benchmarking guidance and work on similar facilities.

Learning Objectives

  • Overview of the University of Oxford's estates strategy and priority areas as a typical example of development challenges within the UK HE market
  • An appreciation of what existing buildings have to offer
  • How open mindedness and honest discussions at the start of a project can lead to better value-for-money solutions long term
  • An appreciation for the importance of learning from your existing estate - good and bad


Oliver is one of the leading Higher Education architects in the UK. He has delivered many award winning, ground-breaking university buildings including high spec lab environments. Oliver leads long-term estate planning projects with many of the highest profile Oxbridge and Russell Group Universities. He has a particular interest in buildings that provide collaborative research and the student experience.

Julia has worked for Hawkins\Brown for over 10 years focussing on higher education. She has led the design and delivery of several major award winning education projects. Julia has worked on various sized projects and is very experienced at coordinating complex projects and design teams.


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