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BGS steers difficult Oxford college scheme through planning

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Berman Guedes Stretton (BGS) has won planning for a new special collection archive at Corpus Christi College Library in Oxford

The practice prepared the plans on behalf of the college for the ‘extremely sensitive’ conservation area in the city centre.

The new building will rehouse a collection of manuscripts, books and documents stretching back 800 years on the site of a college building built during the 1950s.

James Roach, director at BGS, told The Architects’ Journal: ‘We completed the whole bingo card of organisations that we needed to consult on this project, including Edwardian, Victorian and 20th Century conservation societies.

‘There are three other colleges that border Corpus Christi and we also had to make sure they were happy before we went for planning.’

What Roach described as ‘difficult negotiations’ and objections to the original plans led to a reduction in the proposed height of the building.

‘We quickly came to the decision that the height was a step too far and the client had to remove some elements of brief for the project,’ Roach said.

The new four storey building will be built alongside the historic stone boundary wall of Christ Church next to the cathedral and the renowned Dean’s Garden containing the famous tree featured in Alice in Wonderland.

It also abuts the listed Powell & Moya-designed Picture Gallery and forms forming a new public façade to the ancient Oriel Square.

The design also provides a new entrance on the axis of the existing library’s distinctive timber barrel roof via a new glass bridge linking the old and the new.

Roach said that the new library has been designed as a series of interlocking terraces adjacent to the original college building.

A 6 metre-radius bay projects out over the listed Garden Quad, providing naturally-ventilated spaces which are ‘clearly articulated from the shelving area by a top lit vertical circulation spine which defines a clear architectural and organisational arrangement’.
A top floor reading room sits under a long oak lined pitched roof running the length of the building.
Materials include stone facades, lead roof and bronze window systems and louvres. Internally, coffered ceiling unites will be made of exposed pre-cast concrete, sitting on an expressed column grid with extensive use of oak joinery.

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