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Gort Scott triumphs in St Hilda’s contest

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Gort Scott has won the competition for a new riverside block for St Hilda’s College at Oxford University 

The practice saw off competition from DRDH, 6A Architects, Tim Ronalds Architects, and Hall McKnight to win the Malcolm Reading Consultants-run contest. 

The £10 million job will create a new gateway to the college and includes social and conference spaces, suites of academic and teaching rooms, a common room and accommodation for students and university fellows. 

Gort Scott’s design features a slender tower, rooftop gardens and a riverside pavilion. 

The scheme places most of the residential and teaching space around the site’s boundary creating open spaces in the centre. 

St Hilda’s college principal, Gordon Duff, said: ‘The selection of Gort Scott is an exciting moment for St Hilda’s as this development will transform the College’s public face, refresh our rare and lovely riverside setting, and provide much-needed modern spaces and amenities. 

‘Gort Scott won the College over because their concept design displayed the most intuitive and natural fit to our organic site. Though this initial design will be refined and developed in the coming months, the scheme is sympathetic to the garden feel of the College: opening-up new vistas and allowing the space to flow. It also positions the College more elegantly on Cowley Place, improving St Hilda’s visibility within Oxford.’ 

Competition organiser Malcolm Reading, added: ‘The five finalists each produced wonderful proposals and models – we would like to thank them all for their hard work and application. 

‘We were impressed that Gort Scott really engaged with the challenge and the wider site. It is an ambitious brief and it was a pleasure to see the dedication shown by the team in resolving some complex issues.’ 

Fiona Scott of Gort Scott, commented: ‘This commission means an enormous amount to us: the whole team here worked incredibly hard and everyone is thrilled to have won. 

‘The competition process gave us confidence – there was a well thought-through brief and an engaging process that really gave us the opportunity to explore the potential of the project. 

‘Our proposal focused on responding to the riverside setting – making a lyrical pavilion set within the College’s picturesque gardens, framed by a robust building that defines the boundary of the College. The pavilion balances a sense of decorum and gravity from the rhythm of strong brick piers, with a lightness and delicacy that is in dialogue with the changing qualities of the river.’ 

The practice will now develop its plans and construction is set to start on the scheme in July 2017. 

Founded in 1893, St Hilda’s was one of the five former women-only colleges in Oxford before it began accepting male students eight years ago.

Famous alumnae include poet Wendy Cope, Liberal Democrat politician Susan Kramer,broadcaster Zeinab Badawi and IT Crowd actor Katherine Parkinson.

Other architects to have worked for St Hilda’s include Alison and Peter Smithson, who designed the 1968 Garden Building, and van Heyningen and Haward – the practice behind the college’s 1995 Jacqueline du Pré Music Building.

The Redefining St Hilda’s project forms part of the college’s 125th anniversary celebrations.

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