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Purcell to refurbish Grade II-listed masterwork by John Partridge

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Councillors have approved plans by Purcell to renovate a 1970s Grade II-listed building at the University of Oxford designed by John Partridge

Oxford City Council granted listed building consent to the AJ100 practice’s proposals for a major refurbishment of the Hilda Besse building at St Antony’s College.

Completed in 1971, the building has been described as the finest designed by Partridge – a founding partner at prolific post-war practice Howell, Killick, Partridge and Amis.

The Hilda Besse building still plays a key role in university life, providing a dining hall, kitchen and common room among other facilities, but the college describes it as ‘in urgent need of repair’.

Purcell says it plans to use a ‘light-touch’ approach with minimal alterations to the building’s exterior.

The concrete structure will be cleaned and any defects cut out, treated and repaired with a surface aggregate finish to match the existing materials.

Purcell said any changes made inside the building would be informed by historic drawings or photographs.

The dining room floor will revert to its original dark timber finish. Lost octagonal ceiling rafts will be reinstated. Part of the old kitchen will be replaced with a modern alternative.

The buttery will be stripped back to bare brick and the original bar restored and refurbished.

Purcell also plans to overhaul the college’s quad in collaboration with landscape consultants Churchman Thornhill Finch.

Matthew Tromans, senior architect at Purcell, said: ‘The architectural value of the building is rooted in the integrity of its design and materiality, with the principal spaces and many of their original finishes surviving, albeit in varying conditions.

‘The high levels of natural light permitted into these spaces, as well as repeated design and structural motifs, emphasise the building’s post-war architecture.

‘As such, Purcell’s light-touch approach to the conservation and renovation of the building’s Brutalist architecture will maintain the honesty of the original design intent while ensuring its longevity as a valuable building for years to come.’

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Great. At least the college recognises a fine use of a now unfashionable material? Pay attention Westminster City Council and consider your neglect of Dolphin Sq? Partridge’s Building was one of a series of innotive buildings at Oxford in the 70s that made it so exciting to study Architecture at the Poly on the hill. And wake up the dreaming spires!

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  • I'm confused. The text talks about 'light touch', preserving the existing (iconic) design and so on. Completely appropriate for such an important building.
    The visuals show everything existing covered up in grey render, wood laminate suspended ceiling panels of the wrong shape - the whole looking like the departure lounge to Hell.
    We are being seriously misled one way or the other.

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