Buckinghamshire New University (BNU) is centrally located in High Wycombe. It provides a place for learning, but also a shared estate actively in use by students, faculty, and the wider community. The university is on a mission to improve its campus, and have committed to the Nature Positive University pledge and net-zero targets. Useful Studio are supporting BNU with an estate-wide Green Masterplan, and targeted public-realm interventions, comprising landscape and furniture design.
Student wellbeing is a primary focus for BNU and significant investment is being made across the campus’s outdoor spaces. These are key to improving the student experience, as evidence shows access to fresh air and nature has huge mental health benefits, especially on urban campuses.
The garden project has transformed an underutilised space, previously compromised by traffic noise, views of vehicles and a minimal biodiversity contribution, into a beautiful, protected place for outdoor leisure and learning.
The garden design comprises new planting beds with a rich spread of plant species, improving biodiversity while providing a natural screen to the adjacent roads. A long, sculptural curving bench provides a further sense of enclosure to the garden, reducing traffic noise and providing a dwelling place.
The bench was designed and fabricated in partnership with fellow social enterprise, Oxford Wood Recycling. It is made wholly from reclaimed timber with offcuts used to make bird and bat boxes, positioned in the garden’s existing mature trees.
'Useful Studio instinctively get what we are trying to achieve helping to translate our thoughts into something real, tangible, effective and beautiful, not to mention sustainable!' Professor Nick Braisby, Vice-Chancellor and Chief
Outdoor spaces are key for student wellbeing, providing access to fresh air, nature, and a calming change of scene. By providing a nature-filled space adjacent to a lively café selling affordable, fresh food, The Nature Positive Garden is an outdoor ‘living room’ where students can learn, refuel, and decompress.