Hawkins\Brown takes colour title

20 Dec 2011

Sensitive integration of subtle hues in historical city wins 2011 WAN Colour Award

When many people consider the county town of Oxford, UK, they imagine the cobbled streets and turreted towers depicted in literary novels Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, and the elaborately carved university buildings that inspired the magical school of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series.

Intriguing then that the winner of the first ever WAN AWARDS Colour in Architecture title is settled in the historic clutches of the city, sporting glass fins in hues of purple and orange. The New Biochemistry Building at the University of Oxford was designed by British practice Hawkins/Brown and described by Colour judge Jonathan Falkingham from developers Urban Splash as ‘very elegant and sophisticated’.

All of our jurors were taken by the sensitive incorporation of differing hues in this brave scheme, recognising the architects’ experienced approach to working in delicate environments. There is rationale behind each new tone, as Hawkins/Brown explains in their entry material: “The choice of colours for the external glass fins was strongly influenced by the immediate context of listed historical buildings.

“The materials of the surrounding historic buildings informed the choice of colours: the yellow/beige of Cotswold ironstone, the beiges and terracottas of brick and the plums and mauves of the tiles of Keble College. Using a series of translucent proprietary films, samples of the possible colours were prototyped by the cladding subcontractor, Structal.”

It was imperative that the injection of colour into a building of this magnitude and location was highly sensitive to its architectural neighbours and it is this intelligent introduction that resonated with AHMM’s Paul Monaghan, who stated: “It really is interesting, the effect that the colour has given - particularly in an historic city. It’s very compelling.”

For Design and Colour Consultant Frances Tobin it was the understated nature of the tones that won the day, as she details: “It’s really difficult to specify those colours from plan, and they have actually got it so subtly and right.” Congratulations to Hawkins/Brown - the first ever WAN AWARDS Colour in Architecture winners!

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