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Student housing, Somerville College

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Niall McLaughlin Architects

The architect’s view

The intention was to form an extension to the existing Listed Buildings of Somerville College and give a new frontage onto the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter. The concept for the two buildings to overlook the street draws on Pevsner’s analysis of Oxford’s picturesque, episodic Queen’s Lane. Building elements are used to frame and terminate short vistas. ‘The window units are pushed out from the façade, like bay-windows, a contemporary restatement of the themes of Sir Phillip Dowson’s Wolfson Building in Somerville College. This allows oblique views up and down the street, through side windows and maximizes the natural light entering the rooms. The buildings use local bricks, European Oak and concrete containing GGBS. The project has been designed to achieve BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rating.

  • Simon Bishop, project architect, Niall McLaughlin Architects

Project data

Start on site: June 2010
Completion: September 2011
Gross internal floor area:  2541m2
Form of contract: Design and Build
Total cost: £8.5 million
Cost per square metre: £3,345
Architect: Niall McLaughlin Architects
Client:The University of Oxford and Somerville College
Structural engineer: Price and Myers
M&E consultant: Hoare Lea
Quantity surveyor: Gardiner and Theobold
Project manager: PDCM
CDM coordinator: HCD
Approved building inspector: HCD
Main contractor: Laing O’Rourke
CAD software used: Vector Works
Percentage of floor area with daylight factor >2%: 37.7 per cent
Percentage of floor area with daylight factor >5%: 15.7 per cent
On-site energy generation: 22 per cent (based against the model and includes the PV array)
Annual mains water consumption: 29m³/occupant
Airtightness at 50Pa: 4.4m3/h.m2
Heating and hot water load: 65.3kWh/m2/yr


Specified products


Ibstock Reigate Purple Multi, Ibstock



Pre cast concrete

Smooth architectural finish with light blast, Explore Manufacturing/Laing O’Rourke



Pre cast concrete textured finish to corridor walls and canopies

Textured using bespoke Reckli Mat profile with light blast, Explore Manufacturing/Laing O’Rourke



Bespoke Joinery - timber window units, stair lantern screens and internal joinery

European Oak, Panel Edged Products


Bespoke steelwork to stair lanterns and entrance gate

Gascoyne and Beever



Prefabricated Bathroom Pods

Bathsystem UK




3V Architectural Hardware



Photovoltaic Panels

AEE Systems



Bespoke felt notice board to study rooms

Naish Felts



Blinds to study bedroom windows and communal areas

Silent Gliss



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