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Oxford Brooks University prepares for new boathouse

May 2010 will see construction start on a new £1.2million boathouse in Wallingford for Oxford Brookes University, designed by Spratley Studios. Under stringent environmental and ecological requirements, the structure has been designed as a practical, contemporary interpretation of local agricultural buildings.

Due to be completed by April 2011, it is thought that the world-class rowers of Oxford Brookes University will use the new building extensively to prepare for the London 2012 Olympics. Having produced four of the Beijing Olympic eight, ambition is rife within the university rowing team. Director of Estate at Oxford Brookes University, Ian King, said: “We were looking for a world-class facility to match our ambition and achievements. We had outgrown the existing 1980s rowing shed and wanted to reflect our hopes for the future. In this new building, Spratley Studios has created an environmentally sound, hardcore venue, for rowing training and changing, without pretension”.

The idea behind the new boathouse is simple and minimalist. Clad in matt-black stained English larch to produce a subtle silhouette within the landscape, the building will sit on the banks of the Thames. Windows are set to be kept to a minimum, with carefully placed glazed panels at the front, creating streams of light to filter into core areas. Indeed, there is little embellishment in this design, with no viewing balcony; instead, essential viewing is provided by internal platforms suspended between the two gable ends. The only nod towards dramatisation is the use of zinc panelling at the rower’s entrance.

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