Cohen Quad, Exeter College, Oxford

  • © Alison Brooks Architects
  • © Fran Monks
  • © Paul Riddle
  • © Alison Brooks Architects
  • © Paul Riddle
  • © Hufton+Crow
  • © Hufton+Crow
  • © Hufton+Crow
  • © Hufton+Crow
  • © Hufton+Crow
  • © Hufton+Crow
  • © Paul Riddle
  • © Paul Riddle
  • © Hufton+Crow
  • © Hufton+Crow
  • © Hufton+Crow
  • © Hufton+Crow
  • © Hufton+Crow
  • © Paul Riddle
  • © Paul Riddle

Application Type

Civic Trust Awards

Level of Award

Award

Region

South East

Local Authority Area

Oxford

Information about this scheme

This complex building was designed within a highly constrained Conservation Area site context to deliver Oxford’s first fully inclusive and barrier free quad. Its Grade II Listed English Baroque 1913 Ruskin College façade has been retained for its significant historic value, representing the 19th Century educational reform movement in Oxford. A multi-level Learning Commons space at the centre is the building is the Quad’s social heart, opening onto both courtyards and offering a range of informal living rooms, open and hidden study areas, a sweeping staircase and double height café. The learning commons are lined with double storey glazed walls, creating a visual connection to its landscaped courts. Student accommodation offers living spaces which have been conceived as a single large piece of furniture, with integrated desks, window seats, storage, and bathroom pods. Fellows studies occupy the ‘loft’ spaces and are gathered around the Senior Common Room, which looks out onto a south-facing terrace formed by a sinuous cut made in in the curved roof form. At the top of the building, a glass lantern and dormers act as observation points giving spectacular views across Oxford. The Fitzhugh Auditorium provides a new performance space for the College, and a place where the curve of the roof is expressed structurally within the interior in a surprising and lyrically expressive form. Concerts, events, lectures and dinners can be staged in this light filled but acoustically tempered and sealed environment, with the north quad acting as landscape threshold accessible to the public via Worcester place. The roof’s unique geometry and material is a unifying device between the old and new, a mediator between institutional and residential, and the all-embracing enclosure for this scholarly community. Referencing George Gilbert Scott’s latticed spire of Exeter College’s neo-Gothic Chapel, its patterned stainless-steel folds across wall and roof surfaces - a single planar element, or ‘cloak’ cut to fit the building like the tailoring of cloth to a body. The new building’s curved roof form, its construction technique and patterned metal tiling draws on the Arts and Crafts tradition of William Morris, a graduate of Exeter College, and the ethos of his tutor, John Ruskin, whose work is exhibited in the learning commons, as well as being archived as part of the new special archives collection housed in the basement of the new building.  In addition to its academic programme, the Cohen Quad provides fantastic facilities for other public and private events such as conferences, seminars, and lectures. The Learning Commons and its Café has become a meeting point where an integrated community has gelled; its reputation now extends beyond Cohen Quad’s walls to inspire visitors from the other colleges and further afield.

Credits

Client

Exeter College

Architect

Alison Brooks Architects

Conservation Architect

Richard Griffiths Architects

Structural Engineer

Civic

Services Engineer

Max Fordham

Landscape Architect

Dan Pearson Studio

Quantity Surveyor

Capita

Wayfinding Consultant

dePass Montgomery

Main Contractor

Mace

Primary Use Class

Class D1c - Education