Designed by David Kohn Architects (DKA), facilities for New College School include student accommodation, music hall and a study space for the neighbouring New College. The new building for New College School replaces a tired 1950s extension to the main school building, and will provide spacious new classrooms, an assembly hall and dining facilities. DKA have also designed a new tower and gatehouse for the campus, which has been hailed by Historic England as “one of the very few instances where contemporary design can be considered genuinely outstanding”.
New College Oxford is architecturally significant as the site of the first planned quad built in the 1380s – a model that has influenced the design of schools and universities around the world over the succeeding centuries. DKA have reimagined the quad as a learning community in the 21st century, departing from the quad’s closed origins and seeking a contemporary interpretation that opens out to the surrounding city and nature.
The campus, situated in a conservation area close to Oxford city centre, is arranged as a trio of three-sided south-facing quadrangles of different forms, bookended by existing buildings. The East and School quads are large and open, while the central West Quad is horseshoe-shaped to create a more private environment conducive to study. Projecting bays and entrances that reinterpret adjacent Grade II listed Arts and Crafts buildings are set within curvaceous elevations of diamond-patterned stonework with undulating tiled roofs that form a striking contrast to traditional Oxford quads. The new 21.8m tower continues the curving form of the other campus buildings to create a constantly shifting silhouette when viewed from the surrounding city.
Landscaping creates a sequence of gardens linked by a twisting path, ranging from collegiate in character to the north to more wooded to the south. Inspired by the writings of architectural historian Niklaus Pevsner on picturesque urban planning, the paths pass through narrow gaps between buildings that first frame views and then reveal new garden settings.
The result of an invitation competition won in 2015, the £35 million project (named the Gradel Quadrangles, after the principal donor) is DKA’s largest to date.
Miles Young, Warden of New College Oxford, said: “We are delighted that plans for the Gradel Quadrangles at New College have been given the go-ahead with a ringing endorsement from Historic England. They are a very sensitive solution to a very challenging design problem: reconciling exciting and innovative architecture within a very particular Edwardian streetscape. David Kohn Architects have shown a thoughtful and intellectually grounded approach – very much in the ethos of our Foundation. I am looking forward to working with David and his team to deliver this wonderful addition to the architecture of Oxford.”
To learn more about how independent schools are combining historic architecture with modern facilities, click here.