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Purcell wins planning for extension at Arne Jacobsen's Oxford college

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AJ100 practice Purcell has won planning approval for an extension scheme within the grounds of Arne Jacobsen’s Grade I-listed St Catherine’s College in Oxford

The proposals for the college include 78 student bedrooms arranged in clusters in a trio of three-storey pavilions next to Jacobsen’s 1960s masterpiece.

The plans also include a cylindrical three-storey building, to be used as a graduate centre. 

This 540m² graduate hub, with a seminar room and common room, will be clad in bronze in a reference to Jacobsen’s use of the material.

It is also intended to contrast with the stainless steel used by Hodder +Partners for its two student accommodation projects at the college, one completing in 1994 and the other in 2005

Purcell senior architect Matthew Tromans said: ‘This design continues the established visual language at St Catherine’s, sensitively extending Hodder’s earlier works. The graduate centre references both Hodder and Jacobsen’s work, being purposefully “new”, yet of its place.’ 

The project’s Manor Road site is near a contentious proposed scheme just off Manor Place by TP Bennetts opposite St Catherine’s College. In January last year, its plans for 286 student flats were slammed by objectors, including Hodder, Historic England and the Twentieth Century Society. 

Purcell’s scheme is expected to start on site early next year and complete in autumn 2019.

Site plan

Site plan

Source: Purcell

Site plan - Purcell’s proposals pictured top left

Project data

Location Oxford, England
Type of project Extension of Stephen Hodder building, with addition of four pavilions comprising 78 additional graduate bedrooms and a new cylindrical graduate centre.
Client St Catherine’s College, Oxford
Architect/lead Consultant Purcell
Heritage consultancy Purcell
Landscape architect Churchman
Planning consultant Bidwells
Project management Bidwells
Structural engineer Price & Myers
M&E consultant Steensen Varming
Quantity surveyor Ridge
Lighting consultant Steensen Varming
Gross internal floor area Graduate Centre 540m²; Accommodation Pavilions 2,190m²
Form of contract Design and Build

Sketch by Purcell of the approved St Catherine's proposal

Sketch by Purcell of the approved St Catherine’s proposal

Sketch by Purcell of the approved St Catherine’s proposal

Architect’s view

In 2016, Purcell was appointed to extend upon Hodder’s second phase of works, resulting in four new pavilions providing 78 graduate bedrooms based around the traditional collegiate staircase layout. The Purcell design, followed consultation with Hodder and approaches the typology set out by Hodder in Phase II of his works as sensitively as possible.

The standalone cylindrical form of the graduate centre responds sensitively to the site, which includes archaeological features and mature trees. The building is clad in bronze both in order to reference Jacobsen’s use of the material, and to contrast with Hodder’s use of stainless steel. The bronze will dull with time and sit comfortably against the mature trees to the north. The graduate centre is the same height as all the other buildings on the site and uses the design grid that permeates the site.

The college was founded in 1962, and its main campus, designed in its totality by Arne Jacobsen, is arguably one of the best-preserved pieces of his work. Everything within the original campus was designed or approved by Jacobsen: the buildings, furniture and landscape gardening – even the cutlery. Over the decades, the college has commissioned additional buildings on the site, notably by Jacobsen’s assistant Knud Holscher (1982) and Stirling Prize-winner Stephen Hodder (1994, 2005). The entrance to the college with its view over Jacobsen’s watergarden was remodelled by Philip Powell in 1968.

St Catherine's College by Arne Jacobsen (1963)

St Catherine’s College by Arne Jacobsen (1963)

Source: Colin Westwood/RIBA Collections

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