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Bennetts takes wraps off St Antony’s College double

Bennetts Associates has completed two five-storey student housing blocks for St Antony’s College in Oxford

The £11 million ‘gateway’ project, which acts as a new main entrance to the College, includes a porters’ lodge and 54 en-suite study bedrooms, with meeting spaces and offices for College staff housed within glazed rooftop pavilions.

The practice won the project following an invited competition in 2005.

The architect’s view

The new buildings announce the location of the College prominently on the Woodstock Road, frame an engaging main entrance sequence and enclose the central quadrangle for the very first time. In combination with a strong contemporary expression, the physical identity of St Antony’s has been transformed and now sits confidently amongst its peers.

Our design responds to its context both within the St Antony’s estate and the North Oxford Conservation Area. The latter is characterised by a language of wide streets lined with mature trees and large villas, where the gaps between offer enticing glimpses to the gardens beyond.  Breaking the brief and the massing of the gateway buildings into two is in direct response to this character and allows the creation of the engaging entry sequence. 

The two buildings are carefully positioned in relation to the neighbouring Grade II-listed buildings. The 1960s Hilda Besse building is enclosed and revealed in a way that evokes the wider masterplan it was originally intended to be part of. The positioning of the southerly block of the gateway buildings allows the ornate gable of main building - a former convent - to remain visible and respects the setting of the fine mature chestnut trees on Woodstock Road. 

The roofline consciously echoes the animation of main building and large Victorian houses in the area, whilst the palette of Cotswold stone, bronze and walnut is intended to be both timeless and contemporary. The listed perimeter wall has been reconfigured to create a new entrance forecourt.

Internally, the design approach again combines modernity with tradition. The upper floors of each of the two blocks accommodate the graduate rooms, arranged in nine clusters or ‘houses’ of six rooms around a kitchen and staircase, following the long-established ‘Oxbridge’ model. The staircases which link the clusters are spirals of finely crafted walnut, with high quality finishes and fixtures continued throughout the kitchens and en-suite rooms. 

The gateway buildings include a range of features from passive design principles such as sensible glazing ratios, natural ventilation and planted roofs to renewables systems such as ground source heat pumps fed from pipework under the lawned quadrangle and solar arrays for hot water production – the main energy demand in student residences.

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