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Oxford College development set to founder over tower

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Edward Cullinan Architects' £9 million redevelopment at St Anne's College, Oxford, is in doubt following an intervention by conservationists.

The Twentieth Century Society is alarmed at plans to replace a 1960s gatehouse, known as Founders Tower and designed by Howell Killick Partridge and Amis, with a two-storey accommodation block housing common rooms and a gym.

A new centrally located gatehouse is planned, allowing direct access to St Anne's campus (AJ 26.4.01).

Crucially, the statutory body fears demolition could spoil the setting of St Anne's listed Wolfsen and Rayne halls, built in the same wave as Founders Tower and described by Bill Howell as some of his most significant buildings.

'Founder's Tower looks a very fine, goodquality building, ' said Twentieth Century Society caseworker Eva Bramscome. 'But it's nearly 30 years old and needs refurbishment.Maybe the university does not want to put money into a refit and instead replace it with something that would address the needs of the university as a conference facility in the summer break. That's a legitimate reason.'

Bramscome added: 'If the building is not listed we will still look at the Cullinan scheme because it affects the listing of the Wolfsen and Rayne buildings.'

But Cullinan project architect Nita Sharma rejects the society's view of Founders Tower, describing it as 'inadequate' and 'being held together with sticky-tape'.

'It's not one of Howell's finer examples. We are simply working on the reaction of St Anne's governing body, which would rather see the building go because it constantly needs repairing. No one at the college will be sorry to see the gatehouse demolished. It bears no relationship to Rayne and Wolfsen - it is just another example of Howell's work.'

A Twentieth Century Society committee meeting next week will decide whether EH should be asked to list Founders Tower and, if not, how the Cullinan scheme can go ahead without damaging the integrity of the college's protected buildings.

Sharma said that Founders Tower would be refurbished if demolition was outlawed, but such a step will delay the wider redevelopment project by months, although extra costs will not be incurred.

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