Oxford City Council has unexpectedly thrown out Niall McLaughlin Architects’ competition-winning scheme to complete the West Quadrangle of St Cross College in Oxford
The authority’s planning committee went against its own officers recommendations and rejected plans by the 2013 Stirling Prize-shortlisted practice for 53 new student rooms, a lecture theatre, library and seminar rooms at the college in St Giles, next to the Grade II-listed Pusey House.
According to local reports the proposal, which had been designed as a ‘natural companion’ to the existing buildings, ‘was too tall’.
However the official reasons given by the council for the refusal of the application for listed building consent blamed the potential harm to the historic surroundings and the ‘unjustifiable’ demolition of a boundary wall.
A spokesman said: ‘The works for the demolition and rebuilding of the boundary walls are associated with the proposals for the development of student accommodation on the site subject to a planning application. This planning application has been refused and in the absence of an acceptable scheme for the development of the site, the works proposed in this application, involving the demolition of the walls, would cause harm to the heritage significance of the structures that is not justified by any public benefits deriving from the works.
He added: ‘The works therefore do not accord with policies and advice in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).’
Niall McLaughlin beat Pringle Richards Sharratt Architects, Wilkinson Eyre Architects and Walters & Cohen Architects to win the invited contest, organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants, back in November 2012.
Contest judge, former director of the V&A, and master of St Cross College, Mark Jones said no decision had been made on whether the college would appeal.
Reacting the council’s refusal, Jones told the AJ: ‘It is a pity. And such a good design too.’
Niall McLaughlin added: ‘Designs for the new St Cross College buildings were put forward to the planning committee with a recommendation for approval from planning officers and conservation officers. This was supported by praise for the designs from English Heritage and the South East Regional Design Panel.
‘We are disappointed that the planning committee did not follow the recommendations of its officers and advisors. My client will review the decision and decide how to progress with the proposal.’
Previous story (AJ 08.11.12)
AJ Exclusive: Niall McLaughlin wins St Cross College quadrangle contest
Niall McLaughlin Architects (NMA) has scooped the competition to complete the West Quadrangle of St Cross College in Oxford
The practice saw off Pringle Richards Sharratt Architects, Wilkinson Eyre Architects and Walters & Cohen to win the invited contest organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants.
NMA will now be asked to take forward its scheme to ‘finish a tucked-away and much-loved space’ in St Giles, next to the Grade II-listed Pusey House.
The brief called for a new building which ‘should seem a natural companion and complement to the existing buildings, enhancing them, the garden and the surrounding townscape’. It concluded: ‘In whole and in detail this should be a scheme which provides continuing satisfaction and unexpected moments of delight.’
The teams were interviewed last month by a 15-strong jury, which included Oxford University pro-vice-chancellor Sally Mapstone and RIBA Stirling Prize 2012 judge and master of St Cross College Mark Jones.
Jones said: ‘All the designs were of high quality and two were very good indeed. In the end it was felt that Niall McLaughlin was the designer who would best meet the needs of the college.’
The competition process was collaborative and inclusive
Niall McLaughlin added: ‘St Cross is an Oxford college with a special atmosphere based on a community that is very democratic and informal. It enjoys a lovely situation, tucked behind a busy thoroughfare on a site of significance for the history of the city.
‘The competition process was collaborative and inclusive so we already share a good mutual understanding with the client. We are delighted to have won, particularly given the strength of the shortlisted practices.
‘We are looking forward to developing a building that lives up to this exceptional opportunity.’
The architect’s view - NMA explains its competition entry
The available footprint is determined by the boundaries along Pusey Street and Pusey Lane. The depth of the building is established by the gables of Pusey Chapel and the South Wing Building. A distance of approximately 10m is maintained between the new development and the west elevation of the Chapel.
Forming of Clusters
The established volume is broken down into clusters, allowing the volume to reduce its visual impact. Each cluster contains four study bedrooms per level, creating smaller units within the larger development.
The gaps between the clusters contain common areas such as stairs and kitchens facing the Garden Quad. These gaps are extensively glazed to separate the clustersand provide maximum views and daylight.
As well as creating wider areas for the study bedroom entrances, the corridor is off-set from cluster to cluster avoiding long repetitive vistas. Kitchens and staircases break up the journey and provide plenty of light and views.
Shared kitchens and glazed conservatories
The Kitchens sit within glazed conservatories between the more solid building elements and take advantage of daylight and views of the
garden quad. Their location will create smaller communities of students within the adjacent clusters.
Ground Floor Clusters
The organisation of clusters on the upper floors is continued at ground floor level, where the common spaces are located. The entrances to the building are located between the gaps with the staircases towards the back.
Relationship to Garden
The planted areas in the quad come right up to the buildings, creating a sense of a building set into the garden. Benches and seats provide plenty of places to rest and read.
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