Buildings this good should be available everywhere: Oxford unveils two new quads

Exeter College; St Hilda’s College, Oxford From its big, sheltering roof to its little desk windows, Alison Brooks’s new quad for Exeter College is a tour de force that puts people first, while a playful addition to St Hilda’s makes the most of its riverfront setting Just after you enter the Cohen Quad, a building designed by Alison Brooks Architects for Exeter College, Oxford, a perspective of wooden arches recedes before you. They are planar and skinny, like a succession of stage flats, and allow sunlight to filter from the left. The arches pause, then start again in the distance, now made of concrete, lit from the right and aligned at a slightly different angle. The effect is inviting and mysterious, with an enigmatic scale that’s a bit Alice in Wonderland. It’s an elegant rabbit hole. The arches’ rhythm frames irregularities that you might not immediately notice. The floor slopes down at first, following the fall of the land in this particular location. There’s a subtle dilation in the wooden enfilade – the arches get higher and wider in the middle of the sequence – and a corresponding contraction in the concrete ones. They shrink in the middle of their run. The architecture is playful, free and enjoyable. Pleasure is taken in building materials and volume and light, and in the ways of putting them together. Continue reading...

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