Oxford announces demolition of Tinbergen Building

A new life sciences building is due to take its place in 2022


The Tinbergen building, which currently houses the departments of Zoology and Experimental Psychology, is to be demolished, Oxford University has announced. The facility will be replaced by a new life sciences centre for the Departments of Plant Sciences, Experimental Psychology and Zoology.

The presently empty Tinbergen building had to be evacuated in February 2017 after the discovery of asbestos that could not be disposed of while the building was still in use, causing some disruption to students and staff. The departments were subsequently moved into temporary accommodation.

The building is set to be destroyed after current work to remove asbestos is completed. Construction work will then begin for the new centre, and is expected to continue into 2022.

Although the centre is unlikely to open in time for some students to use the new facilities, many have been positive about the plans.

One Biological Sciences student said: “I think it will improve biology because at the moment our buildings aren’t that modern so it will be nice to have a modern one.”

Staff have also expressed excitement at the prospect of new facilities.

The Head of the Department for Plant Sciences, George Ratcliffe, said in a recent department newsletter that “there would be clear benefits in bringing two organismal biology Departments under the same roof”.

However, the announced destruction of the Tinbergen building, regarded in Oxford as a brutalist landmark, has drawn concern from the Oxford Brutalist Society, who say they are “devastated at the university decision to destroy the Tinbergen building” and expressed concern that “concrete masterpieces are continually knocked down with no regard to their architectural significance”.

Oxford City Council is in consultation regarding the plans for the new building, and Oxford residents are to have an opportunity to comment on the issue in 2019.

The University has been contacted for comment.


  1. I did my Zoology undergraduate degree in that building in 1973-1976. I don’t think all brutalist buildings should be saved, but this one was particularly beautiful, in my view. Its paws stretched out into the playing fields behind as in these shots like in a rather feline way. Inside, the labs seemed (at that time) roomy and modern, with lots of windows, such a refreshing change from the red brick Zoology or Biology Departments of other Universities. Maybe there are good reasons for demolishing it, and I guess it’s cheaper to build a new building than refurbishing this one, but I can’t say I’m totally happy about it.


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