Library & Academic Centre, St Anne's College, Oxford, UK

Fletcher Priest
Ridge Property& Construction Consultants
Date Built
Woodstock Road
TThe architects explain on their website that, "... Fletcher Priest’s work for St Anne’s aims to build upon the distinctive character of the college whilst exploring expansion in the context of significant works by Giles Gilbert Scott and HKPA set in magnificent mature gardens. It anticipates future requirements and builds upon and reinforces earlier masterplans by both architects. A revised college frontage to Woodstock Road recreates a generous entrance court and reveals a previously hidden Hartland House (see below). .....

.... It includes a new multi-purpose academic building that relieves pressure on the existing library and provides new academic facilities. A new kitchen replaces temporary facilities restoring views over the gardens from the dining hall and routes through the gardens."

The college published an interesting brochure about their plans for the new building in which they point out that, "... Fletcher Priest’s design more than fulfils the request to create an enduring image for the College. It takes into account both the existing buildings of St Anne’s and the classical architectural traditions of Oxford University, exemplified by the Radcliffe Observatory, a Grade I listed eighteenth century building opposite the College. The New Library’s solid stone walls give a firm identity to St Anne's at its most publicly visible point and connect visually with the other College buildings.

A crucial element of the brief was the need to reflect St Anne’s progressive ethos in the New Library's construction techniques and environmental controls. In common with older University buildings, the principal material for the perimeter walls is local limestone. Whereas in the past the stone was shaped by skilled craftsmen, today it is cut according to the same principles and aesthetics, but using modern computer machining (CNC technology). The result is an even higher quality of construction and permanence, speedier and more affordable to build.

The New Library is designed to last for 400 years or more, a life span comparable with that of many of Oxford's historic buildings. Its technological innovation will make it resilient, environmentally sustainable and energy efficient for centuries to come. .....

.... The New Library is designed as a simple cube, with load-bearing external walls and an engineered timber roof structure. The interior space (c.1000 sq m) is free of columns, making the building easily adaptable inside as methods of academic learning and research evolve.  Desks are positioned around the perimeter where the natural light and views are best, particularly in the top floor reading room where roof lights bring in controlled north light. Books are stored in the centre of each floor protected from sunlight. The design maximises light and air so that mechanical air conditioning is not needed: the best option in environmental terms today and for the future. There are a number of window types, all timber framed. They vary from the simplest opening to a more complex overlaid system of vents, acoustic controls and shading mechanisms, all individually controlled by the desk user. The roof has metal cladding able to accept various responsive environmental systems such as solar panels. The internal clear-spanning structure has beams in a composite of timber and steel. Beams and soffits are left exposed, providing something to gaze at – “engineered inspiration” – whilst thinking. ....

.... St Anne's intention is to use the New Library in new ways, as well as to provide the necessary work space and book storage needed by current College members. The adaptability of the interior provides the opportunity to house on either of the upper two floors a new academic Research Institute to be founded within the College. This would build on Oxford's international renown for interdisciplinary research and would consolidate St Anne's reputation for being at the forefront of academic scholarship. The ground floor atrium will be a large open space ideal for informal, communal working. It is designed also to be an attractive welcoming point for potential students whom St Anne’s invites to experience Oxford at first hand. The lower ground floor is the most conventional: it provides space for dense storage of the library’s great collections and for student work stations, and opens on to a sunken quadrangle giving access to a new suite of seminar rooms. A walkway below ground links the New Library with Hartland House."

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