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Worcester College Lecture Theatre and Kitchens

The brief was to design a new lecture theatre and new kitchens for Worcester College, one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford. The College buildings still sit within 27 acres of wooded grounds, which also contain a sports field, and a beautiful listed garden landscaped around a lake. The anticipated site for the new building, between the Nuffield Building and Pump Quad, sits just off the main quadrangle, right at the heart of the College community.

Walton Street, Oxford
Worcester College
51°45'16.8"N 1°15'49.4"W
  • Describing Architecture Annual Exhibition

The architectural form of the new Lecture Theatre building was developed from the specifics of its location. The design solution was envisaged from a consideration of the context, in response to existing building and landscape conditions of the Worcester College setting.

The sculptural form of the Lecture Theatre building is tailored precisely in relation to adjacent building lines, the perimeter boundary wall, and the branching formation of the ornamental Catalpa Indian Bean tree.

The forces applied by the conditions of the site worked their way inwards to influence the organism of the Lecture Theatre plan. The plan is a direct response to the functional requirements and the section results from our effort to resolve the demands imposed by a restricted site.

The Lecture Theatre is raised up to first floor level to provide social space for the Foyer in its undercroft.

Toilets, plant and storage are provided in a small basement located well away from foundations and tree roots.

The landscape setting is a special attribute of the College. The Lecture Theatre is designed to provide open views out over the College Gardens. On the east side the elevation is relatively closed with angled views up and down the street. The building opens up to the west to embrace the Gardens. The Catalpa tree provides a natural solar screen, preventing glare and reducing heat gain through the window and rooflight glazing.

The design was developed to work within the limits of its site boundaries. However the new Lecture Theatre will be perceived as a crystalline freestanding pavilion when approached along the garden path. The Lecture Theatre has a distinctive identity, a sculpted stone pavilion, purpose-made for its particular function and its special situation in the College Gardens.

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