The Biosphere, Newcastle Helix


Client: Newcastle University/Newcastle City Council

Location: Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne and Wear

Construction Value: £21m

OOBE was commissioned to develop detailed landscape architecture proposals for The Biosphere building at the landmark £350m Newcastle Helix development.

The Helix is an exemplar of innovation and sustainable urban development, an elegant and high-quality landscape design for The Biosphere was therefore required to stand the test of time, increase biodiversity and encourage the buildings users to enjoy the outdoor space and the health benefits this brings. All of this was achieved through OOBE’s rigorous approach to technical design.

The complexities of the site involved ongoing construction with critical phasing requirements. The design had to take account of future Helix developments and provide easy access to the Biosphere building. The concept also needed to connect to the overall Helix masterplan which features an overarching SuDS scheme to address climate change.

With a challenging plot featured tight site perimeters and a 3.4m level difference, risks were minimised throughout the design process. This included designing slopes to be as shallow as possible to aid maintenance, providing guard rails to prevent falling where considerable changes in level are unavoidable and incorporating rain gardens to contain surface water on site and reduce the risk of flooding.

The Biosphere

A high-quality development in the heart of Newcastle

OOBE, in close collaboration with Ryder Architecture, took the site constraints as an opportunity to create something unique.

By taking advantage of the level differences, a hidden gem was created. Tucked away, users of The Biosphere can relax in a tiered space featuring natural stone and a series of rain gardens. Informal planting provides year-round interest, a connection to nature and increases biodiversity net gain. An urban plaza emphasized the architectural geometry of the main building.

The Biosphere is an eye-catching, contemporary and engaging public realm project on budget. It has been well thought out and well designed. This is reflected in the high-quality material palette, set by the overall masterplan, used for paving and bespoke seating. Ultimately, the design reflects the world-class aspirations of the Helix by the client. This is reflected in The Biosphere having been awarded the 2020 RICS Social Impact Awards North East.

“We are delighted with the high-quality finish of this scheme in the heart of the city. It will help to deliver the aspirations of Newcastle City Council for The Helix to be a place, in the heart of the city, that people want to live, work and play and lead to the creation of jobs and further investment to benefit local people.”

Sean Trott, Project Manager at Newcastle City Council

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