A campaign has been launched against a proposed new building in Walton Street, Jericho for the Blavatnik School of Government.
Campaigners, who maintain a 299-strong Facebook group, argue that the building will have a detrimental effect on the neighbouring St Paul’s Church and its surrounding area. The proposed building will be built in the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter and is scheduled to open in 2015. It was designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron, renowned for the 2008 Olympics’ Beijing National Stadium and the conversion of the Bankside Power Station into the Tate Modern.
Gideon Freud, campaign member and St John’s College student, argues that the building will affect the light through the Victorian windows of St Paul’s Church, currently used as Freud. He told Cherwell, “Without light the art is lost, and it is surely important that these tangible pieces of Oxford’s city heritage are not lost in a development to benefit the few.”
He added, “It is important to remember the 700 who are buried at the site. They were buried in the consecrated burial ground of the Radcliffe Infirmary when it was a hospital. The proposed construction would disregard the ground’s consecration as a religious site and would betray the trust of both those whose bodies are buried there and of the relatives who buried them.” Of the campaign’s plan of action, he commented, “At the moment we have public support, and we will challenge the planning application.”
Responding to the campaign, Calum Miller, Chief Operating Officer of the Blavatnik School of Government, said, “Our publicly available planning application concludes that the impact of our building on daylight to St Paul’s Church would be minimal, and that ground floor windows would be affected, but not to an unacceptable degree.”
He contested claims that bodies buried at the site would be illegitimately disrupted, stating, “The Blavatnik School of Government’s planning
application sets out in detail the faculty we have received from the Diocese of Oxford, subject to planning permission, to exhume these remains, and that the remains would be reinterred to consecrated land.”
Miller told Cherwell, “Walton Street contains a variety of architectural styles. In its publicly available report, English Heritage concluded that this variety meant there was no uniform style to the street, and therefore the proposed building would not be out of place.” Proposals have been approved for presentation to the Council next week.
Current Blavatnik school student Hugo Batten supported plans for the new building, opining, “For the Blavatnik School to be successful and sustainable, it needs to approach the scale of a Kennedy or Woodrow Wilson School of Government. That implies significantly larger facilities.”
Marsha Sudar, Somerville JCR president, also expressed her support. She
stated, “It’s great having another building in the north of Oxford which places Somerville closer to important buildings. We are already so close to the Physics and Engineering departments, and now the new Philosophy and Theology faculty, and the new Mathematics instiImage: Isis Bridge tute. It’s wonderful.”