New school meets old school

Laura Salmi
Monday 10 Nov 2008

The Ruth Deech Building at St. Anne’s College in Oxford, UK, creates a coherent "new whole”

The mixed use building designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates encompasses 110 student bedrooms of 18m² each with en suite showers, teaching facilities including three 25 seat seminar rooms and an 80 seat lecture theatre, all organised into 6 traditional Oxford ‘staircases’.

The building is conceived as a terrace fractured near its centre. The fractureprovides a focal point to the elevation, and an identifiable point of entry. Italso provides an enhanced perspective, and a visual termination to the viewfrom the gates at the Woodstock Road entrance. Student rooms are set above the teaching spaces that are located at the base of the building facing the new garden court. A double height foyer space serving these rooms is top lit from a tall clerestory window facing the entrance courtyard.

The development responds to the different character and scale of its “older” neighbours. KPF architects explain:” The site for the new development lies between Bevington Road and Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s Hartland House, in an area which had inevitably become a cramped backland. The challenge was to create new space and routes, as well as a building, and to make a new communal focus for the college.
The straightforwardness of our architectural strategy derives some inspiration from Arne Jacobsen’s iconic St Catherine’s College, Oxford’s key sixties’ monument, though some of the perceived failings of Jacobsen’s residential blocks are equally addressed; by setting back full height windows behind balconies, for example, residents’ privacy is ensured.
The cool discipline of the scheme is expressed in a strict palette of materials - only the glazed lift tower is allowed to break the roofline and is, indeed, conceived as an elegant marker for the new development. The north elevation is articulated into a series of pavilions responding to the scale of the villas opposite and providing an “enhanced dialogue” across the garden court.”.

Laura Salmi

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United Kingdom

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