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‘We are now in a period of quite remarkable architectural expansionism... the question remains, where is all this growth to go?’ hope. I suspect all the right people will hate it. This is not, though, a story of unremitting continuity – a perpetual battle between the proponents and opponents of change. The differences between Hertford’s bridge and the one about to go up at St Antony’s makes that plain. Hertford built at almost the very last moment that central Oxford was open to radical change. The new quads at St John’s (2010) and Pembroke (2013) may yet be the final large-scale additions. All that’s left is the sort of infilling and patching together that can be seen at St Antony’s – or in the new lecture theatres that have been squeezed into Corpus, St Edmund Hall, and Lincoln. We are now in a period of quite remarkable architectural expansionism, fuelled by the generosity of benefactors like Leonard Blavatnik, and the sort of loan-financing that underwrites alot of student accommodation. The question remains, where is all this growth to go? What has to be lost for the University and its colleges to continue on this path? The battles of the future look likely to be less about individual buildings and more about the nature of the city itself. Dr William Whyte (Wadham, 1994) is a Fellow at St John’s. His book, Redbrick: a social and architectural history of Britain's civic universities, will be published next year

To watch the film series Architecture that shook Oxford, go to: www.oxfordtoday.ox.ac.uk Keble College: controversy raged over the colour of its bricks

GREG SMOLONSKI/OXFORD UNIVERSITY IMAGES

– in its history there have been numerous changes of style, of material, of the means of construction – but scale remains all-important. The reason that no one has ever said a good word about New College’s Sacher Building is not that its fabric or even its facade are inherently offensive. It is rather that it doesn’t belong in Longwall Street at all. The same would also have been true of the 25-storey Zoology tower proposed for the Parks in 1962. It was, suggested the Vice-Chancellor, intended to bring “a touch of San Gimignano” to Oxford. It was sensibly resolved that this was something the city could well do without. As the current controversy over the university’s graduate accommodation at Castle Mill in Jericho suggests, the need to temper boldness with a sensitivity to scale remains an issue of real importance. It’s not just that this is a numbingly dull development, defended oxymoronically as a “timeless contemporary design”. It’s also that opponents believe it to be much, much, much too big. Still in Jericho, the designs for the new Blavatnik School of Government, opposite the University Press, raise similar questions about both ambition and massing. There can be no doubt that this is bold: the big issue is with its size. For critics, its mass is simply too great – and somewhat spurious claims that its form is inspired by the curved facades of the Sheldonian and Radcliffe Camera do not compensate for its impact on the surrounding buildings. Its admirers, naturally enough, disagree. Perhaps the most intriguing intervention to be proposed in recent years is a striking addition to St Antony’s designed by Zaha Hadid. Although this is another bridge, it is superficially as unlike the Bridge of Sighs as one could imagine: all sinuous steel and futuristic curves. Yet, just like Hertford’s iconic extension, this is a building which is bold and scaled perfectly for its situation. It is a real sign of

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Oxford Today - Michaelmas Term 2013  

Volume 26 No 1 of the Oxford University alumni magazine with articles on Baroness Thatcher, 22 November: a day to remember and radical archi...

Oxford Today - Michaelmas Term 2013  

Volume 26 No 1 of the Oxford University alumni magazine with articles on Baroness Thatcher, 22 November: a day to remember and radical archi...