St Hilda’s choose architect for extension project

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London architectural studio Gort Scott has been selected to design a new £10 million riverside extension to St Hilda’s College, planned to begin in July 2017.

Gort Scott’s design was selected by St Hilda’s from four other shortlisted designs from competing studios: DRDH, 6A Architects, Tim Ronalds Architects and Hall McKnight in a contest run by Malcom Reading Consultants. The extension is planned as part of the college’s 125th anniversary celebrations in 2018, and the candidates in the competition were asked to interpret the concept ‘redefining St Hilda’s’ in their designs.

 In a press release, competition organiser Malcom Reading praised the success of Gort Scott in handling their given brief, “the five finalists each produced wonderful proposals and models – we would like to thank them all for their hard work and application.

“We were impressed that Gort Scott really engaged with the challenge and the wider site. It is an ambitious brief and it was a pleasure to see the dedication shown by the team in resolving some complex issues.”

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The project will create a new entrance to the college from Cowley Place and includes a slender tower, conference spaces, academic and teaching rooms, rooftop gardens, a riverside pavilion, a common room as well as accommodation for students and fellows.

Claire Harvey, communications manager at St Hilda’s said that the way in which Gort Scott’s project addressed practical problems, combined with the aesthetic of their design made their entry stand out. She told Cherwell, “having considered five very strong designs from the short-listed architectural firms in our invited design competition, the Governing Body felt that Gort Scott’s concept design most suited St Hilda’s riverside location and the ‘feel’ of the College.

“The project is part of our long-term strategy to improve our students’ experience, by increasing the quantity and quality of accommodation. We are aware that we offer a lower provision of undergraduate accommodation than some of the other Oxford colleges and we wanted our students to have the option of living in College for the duration of their time here. This also responds to student feedback we have received over a number of years. In addition, the project will enhance the look and feel of the College, starting with the new entrance on Cowley Place. It will also improve our conference facilities.”

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Jay Gort, the director of the winning Gort Scott studio told Cherwell, “this project is an exciting opportunity for us as it is quite rare to have a commission that offers this level of engagement with the river. I would say what stood out about our design in the competition was the use of materials, use of light and importantly the use of structure.”

He added that the design “fills the void” and “pulls the two halves of the college together, addressing the existing lack of identity and clarity we saw in the college.”

A meeting with the architectural firm and St Hilda’s college management will take place this week, with the following few weeks scheduled for refinement in the existing design.

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