Cohen Quad: the vision

During a weekend of events to mark the formal opening of Cohen Quad, the Principal Architect Alison Brooks, Project Architect Hannah Constantine, and Deputy Bursar Gez Wells were on hand to talk about the design and creation of Cohen Quad.

Guests were invited to watch the video below and then ask questions and discuss the response of students to living on site. Click on the video below to learn all about the vision behind Cohen Quad and how it was realised.

Cohen Quad – The Architects’ Vision from Exeter College, Oxford on Vimeo.

Kloppenburg Room formally opened

On Friday 17 March the Rector Professor Sir Rick Trainor was delighted to welcome Henry and Cheryl Kloppenburg to Cohen Quad to open formally the Kloppenburg Room. The event took place ahead of the formal opening of Cohen Quad and the associated celebrations, which occurred over the weekend of 18 and 19 March.

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Cheryl Kloppenburg, Rick Trainor and Henry Kloppenburg at the formal opening

Henry, who came to Exeter in 1968 to read Law as a Rhodes Scholar from Saskatchewan province, Canada, made a generous gift together with his wife, Cheryl, to the Cohen Quad development. The College was therefore delighted to name one of the larger seminar rooms in their honour.

Situated just off the south colonnade near the entrance hall of Cohen Quad, the room looks out onto Worcester Place and features the original 1918 windows from the retained façade. The room has already been used extensively by Exeter fellows for seminars in Hilary term, and it was used further during the celebration weekend as postgraduate students and fellows spoke about their current research to the guests who attended the events.

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Fellow in English Jeri Johnson gives a lecture in the Kloppenburg Room

We are very grateful for the generosity of Henry and Cheryl, who have already pledged their ongoing support to fund the College’s fellowship in Politics, currently held by Dr Michael Hart. This is great news for all future students as it means that the teaching of Politics at Exeter is guaranteed going forwards.

Exeter College formally opens Cohen Quad

On the weekend of Saturday 18th March and Sunday 19th March 2017, Exeter College formally opened Cohen Quad, its new premises on Walton Street. Named for the parents of Exeter College alumnus Sir Ronald Cohen, this new quadrangle, less than 10 minutes’ walk from the College’s historic site on Turl Street, transforms the College and allows it to provide 90 additional study-bedrooms for students, teaching and performance space, a reading room and climate-controlled storage for the College’s special collections, and a hub for social learning.

Rector Professor Sir Rick Trainor said: “The opening of Cohen Quad marks a major step forward for Exeter College as it moves into its eighth century. One of Oxford’s major new buildings of the 21st century, Cohen Quad provides, in a beautiful environment designed by architect Alison Brooks, a wide range of services for all members of the Exeter College community, including students, fellows, staff and alumni. Cohen Quad, to which more than 4,500 alumni and friends have contributed through a financial gift, indicates the vibrancy of Exeter College and is a springboard for its ambitious plans for the future.”

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Professor Sir Rick Trainor addresses guests

Under the leadership of former Rector Dame Frances Cairncross, Exeter College set out in 2007 a strategy to provide world class education within a collegiate environment: that is, a place where students and academics live and work alongside each other, interacting with each other both inside and outside the classroom, within inspiring buildings and spaces. The addition of Cohen Quad is the biggest single physical expansion of the College since its earliest years when it moved to its Turl Street site in 1315. It maintains a 700-year tradition of students and fellows across academic disciplines living and studying alongside each other and benefitting from each other’s knowledge and experience.

Cohen Quad provides study-bedrooms in the centre of Oxford and enables the College to guarantee up to three years’ accommodation for its undergraduate students.  This will have a significant impact on encouraging students to apply to Exeter College and the University of Oxford. It will help to alleviate pressure on Oxford’s private housing market and will provide students with pristine and affordable accommodation designed around the needs of modern students, including 30-week rather than 52-week lets. Cohen Quad therefore makes an Oxford education both more affordable and more enjoyable.

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An example of an en-suite study-bedroom

In addition to the study-bedrooms for students, Cohen Quad also has three “family kitchens” in which students can socialise and prepare and eat meals together, an auditorium for concerts, lectures and dramatic performances, a social and learning hub known as the Learning Commons, a café, teaching and seminar rooms, fellows’ teaching sets, a reading room and climate-controlled storage space for the College’s archives and special collections, a student common room, and two external quadrangles. All Exeter students, fellows and staff are welcome to use the space and students from other colleges who take tutorials with Exeter fellows will also be taught on site.

In 2011, Exeter College selected Alison Brooks Architects (ABA) to design the new site following an extensive design competition. The first female architect and principal director of an architectural practice to work for an Oxford college, Alison Brooks’ design was a reinterpretation of the traditional collegiate quadrangle, with a hub for social learning at its heart. Drawing on the design influences within the local neighbourhood of Jericho, the history of both Exeter College and Ruskin College (the latter, now concentrated in Headington, previously occupied the site of Cohen Quad), and the needs of 21st century scholars, ABA have delivered a building that is stunning, uplifting, and inspiring.

Alison Brooks said: “Cohen Quad has exceeded our expectations. Even though we model in 3D, there are some things that have really flowered through being built and I think the proportions of the space are wonderful and feel better and more lofty than even we imagined.”

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Alison Brooks addresses guests

As part of the celebrations the Rector paid tribute to the donors who together gave £18m towards the creation of Cohen Quad and a total of £46m to Exeter College in the period running up to and immediately following the 700th anniversary of the College’s foundation, which it marked in 2014. A large board hangs at Cohen Quad, listing the many people who gave to Exeter College between 2006 and 2016 and who helped make Cohen Quad possible.

The lead donor to the new quadrangle is Sir Ronald Cohen (1964, PPE) and it is in memory of his parents that Cohen Quad is named. The dedication as you walk into the quadrangle reads “In honour of Michael and Sonia Cohen, who knew that education was the one thing that could not be taken away from you”.

Sir Ronald said: “It is at Exeter College that I really learned to think. Education is the one possession that cannot be taken away and I am lucky that I can help future generations of Exeter College students to live in a collegiate environment where their minds are best nurtured and inspired.  The stunning design by Alison Brooks will greatly enhance our College’s life.

“It is a building where I think your soul soars, and at the same time it has a sense of community. When you walk into the Learning Commons you can’t help but smile. I think this building is proof that architecture can affect the way you feel, and hence the way you think.”

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Sir Ronald Cohen and his wife Sharon at the formal opening of Cohen Quad

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The dedication to Sir Ronald’s parents in the entrance hall of Cohen Quad

Students moved into Cohen Quad on Sunday 8th January ahead of the start of Hilary Term. They are delighted with the building; many regularly bring friends and family members around to see the new facilities for themselves. Isabella Neil is in her final year of an English degree at Exeter College. She said: “Anyone can see that Cohen Quad is a beautiful addition to Exeter College, but unless you get the chance to live here, it is less obvious how great an impact the new building will have on students’ everyday lives. The extra living space that Cohen Quad offers means an end to Exeter students desperately scrambling to find private housing that is ‘adequate’. We now have the option to avoid 52-week rents, hefty deposits and administration fees, and potentially difficult landlords.

“Arriving in Cohen Quad, it became immediately clear that all the photos and computer-generated renderings don’t do the building justice and, as a finalist, I can’t imagine a better place to live than Cohen Quad. Having a place to live that also has everything we need – spaces to work, eat, socialise, cook, and relax – less than 10 minutes away from the College’s Turl Street site is amazing, and makes a huge difference in what is a pretty stressful year. Everything about Cohen Quad’s design feels well thought through, and the building feels tailor-made to support Exeter’s students and staff. We are just settling in at the moment, but it is clear to see that Cohen is going to be a huge part of college life at Exeter.”

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The donor board at Cohen Quad

In addition to Exeter College students, five Exeter College fellows have also moved into their teaching rooms at Cohen Quad and a Junior Dean, responsible for discipline and welfare, has also moved into the Quad. The fellows in residence teach classics, Spanish, English, history, and chemistry.

Professor Christina de Bellaigue, Fellow in Modern History, moved into her teaching rooms at Cohen Quad in January. She said: “As one of the Fellows who has just moved into Cohen Quad, I want to say thank you to everyone who made it possible. It’s an inspiring building to work and teach in and the views are fantastic. The building is going to bring such a new lease of life to the College. I love walking around and seeing the students at work in the Learning Commons or chatting over coffee, and I can’t wait to use the Special Collections housed on site to teach some of them.”

The celebration events over 18th and 19th March enabled donors who gave to Exeter College between 2006 and 2016 to visit Cohen Quad and experience this remarkable building for themselves. They had the opportunity to hear from the architect Alison Brooks and to take a tour of the Quad, as well as talk to current students about what it’s like to live and study in Cohen Quad.

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Guests attend a lecture on James Joyce by Fellow in English Jeri Johnson

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Exeter College Choir sings at the formal opening

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Guests could explore Cohen Quad or take a tour with current students

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Many guests attended a closing ceremony in the Sheldonian Theatre

William Morris carpet unveiled at Cohen Quad

Just outside Cohen Quad’s FitzHugh Auditorium is a wonderful, light foyer where people gather before going into a lecture or concert or before attending a seminar in the adjacent Maddicott Room. From the earliest design concepts for this area, the wall facing the Maddicott Room was designed and built to fit the College’s stunning carpet created by its renowned former student, the designer and artist William Morris.

Originally believed to be from the Kelmscott Manor estate – home to William Morris from 1871 until his death in 1896 – the carpet was, until recently, laid on the floor of the Rector’s Lodgings. When thinking about how we might tie the history and heritage of the College, which is so evident at Turl Street, into Cohen Quad, the architects proposed that the carpet be hung on public display.

Earlier this month this vision was realised when the College maintenance team climbed a scaffold, affixed the carpet to the wall and unrolled it, with the lower portions safely stored behind protective glazing.

It is a stunning addition to the building and gives the space outside the FitzHugh Auditorium character and colour, further enhancing this wonderful building.

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Cohen Quad welcomes film director for inaugural FitzHugh Auditorium lecture

As the formal opening of Cohen Quad draws closer, the whole College community is eagerly taking advantage of the wonderful facilities which the new site offers. This week, we were delighted to host our first lecture in the FitzHugh Auditorium – one of the Rector’s Seminars that was offered in partnership with the Fulbright Scholarship programme (Rector Trainor was formerly a Fulbright Commissioner for several years).

The speaker on Tuesday evening was the award-winning film director Susanna White, known for acclaimed TV series such as Jane EyreParade’s End, and Bleak House, as well as feature films such as Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang and an adaptation of John Le Carré’s Our Kind of Traitor. She spoke about the paucity of female film directors under the title “A Screen of One’s Own”.

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As you can see from the image above, the lecture was well attended. Our guests praised both the splendour of the space and the acoustics. After the event, Susanna White wrote a warm letter of appreciation to the Rector expressing her own delight speaking in such a stunning environment.

We look forward to many more events hosted in the FitzHugh Auditorium, from lectures and seminars to concerts and dramatic performances, including those organised by our own students.

Fellows and students enjoying Cohen Quad

Professor Christina de Bellaigue, Jackson Fellow in Modern History, moved from Turl Street to Cohen Quad at the start of term. She is now installed in one of the Fellows’ teaching rooms on the third floor of Cohen Quad and her office looks out over the auditorium towards the western outskirts of Oxford. Here’s what she says:

“As one of the Fellows who has just moved into Cohen Quad, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who made it possible. It’s an inspiring building to work and teach in, even still in progress, and the views are fantastic. The building is going to bring such a new lease of life to the College.

“I held a workshop on admissions, outreach and access in the Kloppenburg Room on Tuesday. It was fantastic, we could all hear what each participant was saying, the room was comfortable and accessible to everyone, and we had lots of good ideas about how we could make good Exeter’s commitment (dating back to 1314!) to recruit the most able students from all walks of life, and honour the spirit of Ruskin College (which was established to extend access to education, and on whose former site Cohen Quad now stands). It’s really exciting to have the opportunity to organise events like this because we now have the space. I’m confident that the building will become a hive of intellectual activity and a key hub for academic exchange.

“I also love walking around and seeing the students at work in the Learning Commons or chatting over coffee, and I can’t wait to use the Special Collections rooms to teach some of them. On a personal level, after 10 years at Turl Street, I feel re-energised and ready for anything.”

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The view from Professor de Bellaigue’s teaching room

Exeter family celebrates the opening of Cohen Quad

On the afternoon of Saturday 14 January the Exeter College family celebrated Cohen Quad opening for students, as well as officially opening the Student Common Room.

Although the formal Cohen Quad opening events will not be until mid-March, this was a wonderful occasion to mark informally the moment when all the resident students were finally living and studying in Cohen Quad.

The Rector expressed his thanks to the architect, Alison Brooks, and the project architect, Hannah Constantine, for creating such a wonderful space for the College. He also paid tribute to the tireless work of Gez Wells, Deputy Bursar, while also noting his birthday that day with a birthday cake and leading a chorus of “Happy Birthday”. He finished by thanking the students for their patience during the delays and encouraging them to make the most of their new building.

The outgoing JCR President Harry Williams, the new JCR President Dan Smith, and the current MCR President Sandra Ionescu said a few words in response to the Rector and then walked over to the Student Common Room to cut the ceremonial ribbon.

The Cohen Quad Student Common Room, which is adjacent to the Dakota Café and below the Learning Commons, is a space for all students and has been furnished with comfy chairs, a TV, and board games. Over the coming weeks the students will make it more their own space and it will become a hub for undergraduate, graduate, and Williams students alike.

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The Rector, Harry Williams, Dan Smith and Sandra Ionescu each spoke at the event

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The Student Common Room is formally opened

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The event was well attended by students, staff, fellows and alumni