Buildings this good should be available everywhere: Oxford unveils two new quads

Asia's Tech News Daily

Exeter College; St Hilda’s College, Oxford
From its big, sheltering roof to its little desk windows, Alison Brooks’s new quad for Exeter College is a tour de force that puts people first, while a playful addition to St Hilda’s makes the most of its riverfront setting

Just after you enter the Cohen Quad, a building designed by Alison Brooks Architects for Exeter College, Oxford, a perspective of wooden arches recedes before you. They are planar and skinny, like a succession of stage flats, and allow sunlight to filter from the left. The arches pause, then start again in the distance, now made of concrete, lit from the right and aligned at a slightly different angle. The effect is inviting and mysterious, with an enigmatic scale that’s a bit Alice in Wonderland. It’s an elegant rabbit hole.

The arches’ rhythm frames irregularities that you might not immediately notice. The floor slopes down at first, following the fall of the land in this particular location. There’s a subtle dilation in the wooden enfilade – the arches get higher and wider in the middle of the sequence – and a corresponding contraction in the concrete ones. They shrink in the middle of their run. The architecture is playful, free and enjoyable. Pleasure is taken in building materials and volume and light, and in the ways of putting them together.

The purpose of the project is to expand the 700-year-old college, whose historic site in the centre of the city has no room for expansion. The newer building, half a mile away, has accommodation for 90 undergraduate and postgraduate students, an auditorium, seminar rooms and a cafe, as well as a basement archive for the college’s collections of manuscripts and old books. Cohen Quad is a self-sufficient satellite – students can live, eat, socialise and study here – but also close enough to the ancient mothership for them to go easily from one to the other.

It’s on a site formerly occupied by Ruskin College, which has relocated elsewhere, whose only-fairly-good 1913 facade and part of its flanking walls have been retained. If this is a manoeuvre beloved of cynical developers – keep the historic skin and gut the rest – here it is justified by the result, to free up space for a generous and open building, which manages to get a lot out of a limited amount of volume. It achieves an abundance of internal personalities: places that are expansive or intimate, introverted or outward looking, high, low, bright, shadowy, materials that are natural or machine-made, sculpted, hollowed-out, assembled, jointed, welded. Brooks, who is an architect best known for award-winning housing schemes in Cambridge, Harlow and the London borough of Brent, says that the idea is to “draw students out of their rooms”, to “give them choices where to work” and to make “every space a different kind of gathering space”.

What you notice most on the outside is a big, scaly roof, clad in diamond-patterned stainless steel, rounded off at its angles, which wraps down over the walls. It is meant to make the building feel like a big house, enveloping and sheltering, riffing on the eventful skylines of Oxford’s collegiate buildings, while also referring to the arts and crafts style of decoration that was inspired by William Morris, who studied at the college. The roof is a bit dragony too, which might have pleased another Exeter alumnus, JRR Tolkien.

It’s a rare thing to see architecture at once so imaginative and thought through

Otherwise, the exterior is clad in pale, respectful stone of a kind of which the city has plenty. Two U-shaped courts are formed, each open on one side, conceived as less inward-looking versions of the traditional Oxford quadrangle. One faces towards the gardens of neighbouring Worcester College, the other towards a domestic-scaled street that runs along one side of the Cohen Quad’s site.

The wooden arcade runs down one side of one of these courts, the concrete along the other. Together they form a central spine off which you can reach the main functions of the building. In the centre, in the pause between the two arcades, is a “learning commons”, an open, multilevel area where students can and do sit down with their laptops or play with their phones or chat or gaze out the windows or do whatever helps their intellectual cogs to turn.

The architecture gets most boisterous in the auditorium, a place of pushing and pulling and lightness and oomph. It has a vault in two halves, with a low bulbous section hanging in defiance of gravity from a soaring convex part, both of them formed in a freeform timber gothic of wooden struts and ribs. The students’ rooms are calm, made with enduring materials including cherry wood and concrete, with an additional little window for casting daylight on to a built-in desk. Fellows’ rooms on the top floor have high, curved ceilings that follow the shape of the dragon roof.

The design helps you feel where you are, whether under the roof or at ground level or in a place hollowed out of the earth, and keeps giving you views out to the modest terraces and grand institutions around. It also places you in time, with its references to the quads and cloisters and stone walls of old Oxford within what is plainly a contemporary building.

The Cohen Quad is not all perfect: something terrible has happened to the wall with the neighbouring garden, which looks like a cheap wooden fence, and some of the encounters of its multiple forms and materials work better than others. It has also had a bumpy ride getting here: it was mostly complete four years ago, but some problems with construction followed by the pandemic mean that it can only now be fully appreciated. But it’s a rare thing to see architecture at once so imaginative and thought through, where ideas as to how people might live and work together shape everything from the big roof to a little desktop window.

The Anniversary Building for another Oxford college, St Hilda’s, also plays with tradition. Here, the idea was to make the most of an asset – the college’s long and verdant frontage on to the River Cherwell – while remedying a weakness, which is to unify what was a straggle of existing buildings. So the architects Jay Gort and Fiona Scott, who, like Brooks, have some well-considered housing projects to their name, have designed a long, cranked block that echoes the river’s meander and added an entrance tower with a crown-like top. They have created a pavilion for events and lectures on the water’s edge, whose glazed walls allow you to enjoy the views. A newly re-planted landscape runs between the buildings.

Like the Cohen Quad, the Anniversary Building plays with history and building materials, while providing such things as student rooms, common rooms and spaces for teaching and functions. The notion here is that the old form of the quadrangle has been unfolded, such that you get a riverside garden rather than the traditional enclosure, while still making a place that is sheltered and reflective. The plain brickwork of the long block gets scalloped and frilly at the top, such that it nicely catches light and shadow. From time to time the metalwork breaks out into patterns of oak leaves. It’s not quite the tour de force that is the Cohen Quad – the interiors are a more familiar affair of white-painted plasterboard – but it is still a thoughtful and civilised piece of design.

All of which leaves me wishing there was more work like this outside the privileged enclaves of Oxford. It certainly helps that a venerable institution such as Exeter College can attract funding from someone such as the venture capitalist and philanthropist Ronald Cohen, but it’s not all about money. Alison Brooks argues that, at a construction cost of £30m for about 6,000 square metres of accommodation, the building that she designed is not outrageously expensive. More important, she says, is the lack of a corporate mentality that believes that places of education should be built like office blocks.

Commissioning in Oxford probably has much to do with self-confidence and a sense of keeping up with the past. But there is no fundamental reason why the qualities of buildings such as the Cohen Quad and the Anniversary Building can’t be more widely available. Meanwhile, they should be enjoyed for the achievements they are.

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related

OTHER NEWS

Australia delivers water, telecommunications aid to Tonga

The Associated PressThis combination of this satellite images provided by Maxar Technologies shows an overview of Nomuka in the Tonga island group on Aug. 17, 2020, left, and Jan. 20, ... Read more »

Australian Open im Überblick: Halep locker – Sabalenka muss wieder beissen

© Bereitgestellt von Blick Halep locker – Sabalenka muss wieder beissen Aryna Sabalenka (WTA 2) könnte mit ihrem ersten Grand-Slam-Titel in Melbourne die Weltnummer 1 werden. Aber wie schon in ... Read more »

Tore von Niederreiter und Suter, Assist für Fiala

© KEYSTONE/FR7226 AP/KARL B DEBLAKER Nino Niederreiter und Pius Suter reihen sich in der NHL in der Nacht auf Samstag in die Liste der Torschützen ein. Kevin Fiala gelingt ein ... Read more »

Political drama over meeting of CM and former CMs in Madhya Pradesh

© Provided by Hindustan Times Rajya Sabha MP and former chief minister Digvijaya Singh sat on a dharna near CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s residence. He was joined by Kamal Nath, ... Read more »

Pfizer, Moderna boosters up to 90% effective against Omicron: CDC

Booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have proven highly effective at preventing Omicron-related hospitalisations, according to three new studies by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The booster ... Read more »

Indian Army Recruitment 2022: New vacancies announced at joinindianarmy.nic.in, check details here

© Provided by Zee News Indian Army Recruitment: As part of its recruitment drive, the Indian Army has invited applications from unmarried male and unmarried female LAW GRADUATES for grant ... Read more »

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich review – saved by books

As Louise Erdrich’s new novel begins, her heroine, Tookie, has been sentenced to 60 years in prison for an offence both horrible and ridiculous. It’s 2005, and though Tookie is ... Read more »

Austrian FM condemns terrorist attack by Houthis on UAE in phone call with Abdullah bin Zayed

ABU DHABI, 21st January, 2022 (WAM) — Austria has condemned the terrorist attack by the terrorist Houthi militia on civil areas and facilities in the UAE. This came in a ... Read more »

Australian Open 2022, Day 6, Tennis Live Score and Updates: Halep, Medvedev Dominate, Sabalenka Through; Tsitsipas in Action

© Provided by News18 Australian Open 2022, Day 6, Tennis Live Score and Updates: The sixth day of the first Grand Slam of the year started with former Grand Slam ... Read more »

Women get interest waiver on loans from Haryana Women Development Corporation Ltd

© Provided by The Statesman Women get interest waiver on loans from Haryana Women Development Corporation Ltd Haryana government has decided to waive off the interest of women beneficiaries who ... Read more »

West Bengal Lottery Result 2022: Dear Bangasree Damodar Results at 4 PM; 1st Prize Winner to Get Rs 50 Lakh

© Provided by News18 West Bengal Lottery Result 2022: Dear Bangasree Damodar Results at 4 PM; 1st Prize Winner to Get Rs 50 Lakh West Bengal Lottery Result 2022: West Bengal ... Read more »

IFFCO Paradip supplies free medical oxygen to Kendrapara HQ hospital

© Provided by The Statesman IFFCO Paradip supplies free medical oxygen to Kendrapara HQ hospital In a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative, the cooperative fertilizer major- Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative ... Read more »

Delhi witnesses light rains in several parts as minimum temperature settles at 11.5°C

© Provided by Firstpost Delhi witnesses light rains in several parts as minimum temperature settles at 11.5°C Several parts of Delhi recorded light rain in the early hours of Saturday ... Read more »

Goa Election 2022: Sanjay Raut sets another condition to back Utpal Parrikar from Panaji

© Provided by The Financial Express Raut had also urged non-BJP parties to support Utpal’s candidature by not fielding their candidates against him. (PTI) Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut today ... Read more »

Samantha Ruth Prabhu deletes separation post with Naga Chaitanya but the real reason is not what you think!

© Provided by Zee News New Delhi: The sensational actress Samantha Ruth Prabhu recently deleted the post announcing separation from Naga Chaitanya. And fans got all excited thinking about a ... Read more »

From Taurus to Libra: 4 Addictive zodiac signs you'll always stay hooked on

There could possibly be two reasons that we are not able to forget a person: Firstly, we truly believe that they are the one for us and secondly, we are ... Read more »

IPL Auction: Shreyas Iyer, Yuzi Chahal, David Warner likely to be top draws as 1,214 players register for mega trade

© Provided by Jagran English New Delhi | Jagran Sports Desk: India batsman Shreyas Iyer and spinner Yuzvendra Chahal along with Australian batsman David Warner are expected to be the ... Read more »

Second In-Person Quad Meet Could Be Held In May: Report

© Provided by News18 Second In-Person Quad Meet Could Be Held In May: Report The Quad summit will be held in Japan towards May this year but the dates of ... Read more »

Aspirational districts now eliminating barriers to progress: PM

Aspirational districts are now eliminating the barriers to the progress of the country and they have become accelerators for growth instead of impediments, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday ... Read more »

Spain holidays: Benidorm named best city in Europe for socially distanced fun

Travel will be on many Britons’ list of things to do this year. While travel restrictions are still in place, it is now easier to jet off overseas without too ... Read more »

Fans Turn Virat Kohli Into ‘Devdas' As They Watch Him Dance After ‘Being Wronged By BCCI'

© Provided by MensXP Virat Kohli is playing his first ODI series ever since he was stripped as the captain of the squad in white-ball cricket.  Based on the videos and ... Read more »

Delhi police arrest 18-year-old from Lucknow in Clubhouse app chat case

© Provided by Hindustan Times The Clubhouse interaction comes to light days after a massive uproar over Bulli Bai app case that listed Muslim women for auction along with their ... Read more »

Myanmar sentences pro-democracy activists Phyo Zeyar Thaw and Kyaw Min Yu to death

© Provided by ABC NEWS Phyo Zeyar Thaw played a charity concert for Burmese Australians in 2019. (Supplied) Two pro-democracy figures in military-ruled Myanmar have been sentenced to death for ... Read more »

Morgan: Development more important than winning

© Getty Eoin Morgan is captaining a 17-man England squad for the five-match T20 international series against West Indies in Barbados England white-ball captain Eoin Morgan says the development of ... Read more »

Russian minister accepts invitation to meet with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace

The Russian defence minister has accepted an invitation to meet with UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace amid tensions over Ukraine the PA news agency understands. Mr Wallace extended an invitation ... Read more »

U19 World Cup 2022: When and where to watch India vs Uganda match, live coverage on TV, online

© Provided by Firstpost U19 World Cup 2022: When and where to watch India vs Uganda match, live coverage on TV, online After a glorious 174-run victory over Ireland, the ... Read more »

Bigg Boss 15: Karan Kundrra looks handsome in printed stylish shirts

© Glamsham/Instagram/Twitter Bigg Boss 15: Karan Kundrra looks handsome in printed stylish shirts Bigg Boss 15 heartthrob Karan Kundrra is making girls go crazy with his good looks. Moreover, his ... Read more »

Slain NYPD rookie wanted to improve relations between cops and communities

Officer Jason Rivera detailed in a letter written when he attended the police academy that he knew becoming a police officer “was the career for me.” DCPI The rookie cop ... Read more »

Mpumalanga's best performing pupil showered with gifts, including a car

© Provided by SowetanLive Mpumalanga’s best performer Kgothatso Mphaka from KwaMhlanga secondary school was on Friday gifted with a Toyota Etios and R50,000 in cash. Kgothatso, 18, was also showered ... Read more »

Covid pushes release of 'Mission: Impossible' 7 and 8' to 2023, 2024

© IANS Mission Impossible. Los Angeles, Jan 22 (IANS) The release dates of two films from the Tom Cruise-starrer spy action series: ‘Mission: Impossible 7’ and ‘Mission: Impossible 8’ have ... Read more »

Teaser of Santhanam-starrer 'Agent Kannayiram' garners million views

© IANS Santhanam’s Agent Kannayiram. Chennai, Jan 22 (IANS) The teaser of director Manoj Beedha’s ‘Agent Kannayiram’, which features actors Santhanam, Riya Suman and Sruthi Hariharan in the lead, has ... Read more »

Gulmarg, other places in JK, receive fresh snowfall,

© Provided by The Financial Express The MET Office has forecast widespread light to moderate rain/snow in J-K till Sunday. (Representational image) Gulmarg and other upper reaches of Kashmir received ... Read more »

Palak Tiwari spotted with Ibrahim Ali Khan outside restaurant. What's cooking?

Palak Tiwari and Ibrahim Ali Khan were snapped together leaving a restaurant. Shweta Tiwari’s daughter Palak Tiwari and Saif Ali Khan-Amrita Singh’s son, Ibrahim Ali Khan, were photographed leaving a ... Read more »

Why Packers' Aaron Rodgers will win MVP over Buccaneers' Tom Brady, despite some voter reservations

© Provided by Sporting News Cooper Kupp, Jonathan Taylor and T.J. Watt had terrific seasons, but here’s the truth about their 2021 NFL Most Valuable Player award cases: They never had a ... Read more »

Islanders leaning into scheduling chaos

By now, the Islanders are used to the chaos. Strictly speaking, it doesn’t quite make sense for them to have played 13 games on the road to start the season, ... Read more »

Mumbai: 7 dead, 16 injured after major fire at 20-storey building in Tardeo

© Provided by Firstpost Mumbai: 7 dead, 16 injured after major fire at 20-storey building in Tardeo At least seven persons were killed and 16 others injured in a major ... Read more »

Mom charged for threat of 'gun loaded, ready' if kids masked at school

A Virginia mother has been charged with making a terror threat after she vowed to bring guns to her children’s school if they were made to wear face masks. Amelia ... Read more »

Recoveries outnumber fresh COVID-19 cases in Odisha: Daily infection, positivity dips

© Provided by The Statesman Recoveries outnumber fresh COVID-19 cases in Odisha: Daily infection, positivity dips Odisha on Saturday recorded 8,845 fresh Covid cases, including 927 children below 18 years ... Read more »

Was irritated: Priyanka Gandhi clarifies comment on being Congress's UP CM face

A day after dropping a major hint for the party’s chief ministerial candidate for Uttar Pradesh, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Saturday clarified that she did not say ... Read more »

Prakash Jha helped me overcome depression, says Indian actor Prashantt Guptha

© Provided by Khaleej Times US-born Prashantt Guptha, originally from a Jaipur family that has been in the gems and jewellery business, has acted in a few Bollywood films (including ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic