The original building, drafted by the firm Architects’ Design Partnership, was constructed in the early 1980s for the Natural Environment Research Council’s Institute of Virology.

The building’s style sits somewhere between more strictly modernist works of the early 1970s and the relatively integrated and contextual designs of the later 1980s and 1990s. Geoffrey Tyack’s 1998 architectural guide to Oxford notes that, in comparison to earlier modernist buildings in the Science Area, the Tinsley Building’s ‘restrained brick elevations and pitched slate roofs are more humanely scaled’. Strong vertical elements and distinctive horizontal layering echo the Mansfield College Chapel opposite.