Fine Dining in Oxford
AN EXTENSION AND REMODELLING TO A GRADE ONE LISTED BUILDING FOR ST.JOHN'S COLLEGE, OXFORD
IN MANY WAYS, THIS IS MORE OF A GARDEN PAVILION THAN A BUILDING EXTENSION, ALLOWING THE NATURAL SURROUNDINGS OF THE LANDSCAPE TO REACH INTO THE BUILDING, RATHER THAN THE BUILDING ENCROACHING UPON IT.
St. John’s is one of Oxford’s most beautiful colleges and was founded in 1555 by Sir Thomas White, a wealthy London merchant tailor. The college has buildings dating back to the mid 15th century and has grown steadily over the years. Towards the end of the 20th century, additional space for the Senior Common Room (SCR) was required in order to improve the existing lunch room facilities, provide further accommodation for college fellows, improve disabled access and to remodel the large kitchen and butler’s pantry.
Careful negotiation with the planning officers and English Heritage combined with a sensitive approach has allowed the design to be realised. The new extension very gently extends into the neighbouring President’s Garden and is wrapped in two-storey, freestanding glass walls. Weathered oak louvres sit outside the glass on a steel and oak frame and are set against a backdrop of nearby mature trees. The slenderness of the oak columns create a strong vertical rhythm and echo the stone mullions in the adjoining 16th-century chapel window.
A low white concrete wall acts as a plinth for the new timber structure and extends along the existing building line to become a raised planting bed. This simple idea unites the extension with the garden. The second floor of the extension is set back which reduces the scale of the building, allows space for a private terrace and ensures that it is not visible from the garden.
From the inside, the large electronically controlled oak shutters appear to extend the lunch room into the garden. A glazed clerestory allows light to filter down from roof level, through the smooth white concrete roof structure into the perimeter of the room and illuminates a series of college paintings. The top light creates a uniform lighting effect within the interior. This helps create a calming atmosphere and creates the illusion of the ceiling hovering in a sea of space. The white concrete structural beams impart a strong sense of order and direction in the space and have oak slats are inserted between them to add warmth and reduce noise.
Within the carefully repaired existing building, the rooms have been sensitively remodelled and a new lift inserted to improve disabled access.
Mark Hines was the designer of the project, and led all of the negotiations with the authorities, from inception to completion of the planning application.
CLIENT: St. John's College, Oxford