The Rhodes Building, Oriel College


Rhodes Revisited

The Rhodes Building on Oxford’s High Street has been subtly transformed by a new ‘origami’ roof.

This Edwardian baroque building designed by Basil Champneys (1842-1935) was completed in 1911 by will of Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902). It is grade 2* listed and in the Oxford Central Conservation Area. It forms the north range of St Mary’s Quad of Oriel College and presents a formal facade to the High Street opposite St Mary’s church.

The project was identified by carrying out a conservation and management plan and a master plan for the college. The project conserves the Rhodes building for the 21st century to provide:

  • more, and better undergraduate rooms
  • upgraded and more flexible and functional offices and seminar rooms
  • improved services and energy efficiency
  • accessible accommodation,
  • landscape improvements: completing wheelchair access to all three quads on the college’s main site,
  • use of the quad for performance and parties,
  • cycle parking.

The design was developed from 2008-2011 after consultation with Oxford City Council’s conservation team, English Heritage and others, and constructed June 2013 to September 2014. Opposite are concept drawings and photos of the building under construction.

What’s Changed?

  • High Street elevation: ground floor windows lower cills to make the frontage more open. New railings to reinstate Champneys’ originals.
  • A subtle presence at third floor level between the gables.
  • St. Mary’s Quad, landscape adjustments achieve level access and improve the landscape use of the quad including performance and theatre.
  • Roof: replacing the original copper crown with a new ‘origami’ copper roof: expressive, crystalline, containing a new floor of accommodation. New and old play peek-a-boo between the renaissance/baroque Dutch gables, MBA’s Euclidian counterpoint filling the gaps, busking between architectural logic of Champneys’ building.
  • A new lift is threaded through the historic structure
  • the ground floor offices/seminar rooms are upgraded
  • services, stonework, bronze windows and internal finishes are repaired and upgraded.

Heritage Project

  • increases the building’s useful capacity
  • creates new accessible rooms in the centre of Oxford with stunning views
  • provides for people with disabilities and wheelchair users
  • connects the Rhodes building to the rest of the College as part of an integrated landscape
  • links the College to the High Street and presents a friendlier, open public face
  • discreetly adds an authentic contemporary layer of history amongst a rich tapestry of existing historic buildings.

The Rhodes Building project demonstrates that significant changes can be made to highly protected listed buildings if the cultural significance is preserved: over-layering with a fresh history, respecting context and setting. Research supported by evidence, genuine need, working ‘with the grain’ and lateral thinking can create space from nowhere: simple forms made in bright copper, following the logic of the building, turning brown and eventually green, etched by chance and time.

Changes at ground level to St Mary’s Quad provide level access by two sweeping arcs of York Stone and provide seating and social space within the quad.

Further information:

External Links:


Project Architect
Marcus Beale
Job Architect
Daniel Shabetai

Dates
2015
Location
Oxford, UK

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