Rock and Roll: Brick and Stone at CQ

We are delighted that the Oxford City planners have approved samples of the brick and stone that we will use in the construction of Cohen Quadrangle. This news completes the final stage of the materials application process; while the planners had previously approved our designs on paper, they required a sample of each material to be presented, approved and then set as a benchmark for the rest of construction.

The bricks used on the south gable wall mirror those that make up the retained 1913 facade of Cohen Quadrangle. The new bricks (3000 in total) are Imperial standard, hand-made and hand-cut in Britain in the traditional way. They are being made by Buckinghamshire firm HG Matthews, founded in 1923, who often work with Keble College to maintain its distinctive red-brick appearance.

Once made, some of the bricks are dipped in manganese on a gradient which adds the subtle colour differences, shown in the photograph below.

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Brick sample for south gable wall

The College has retained all decorative stonework that was part of Ruskin College’s side wall. It has been cleaned and restored and will be reinstalled as the new brick wall is constructed. This stonework includes window surrounds, cornices and the raised decorative band near the top of the wall, known as a dental course.

All of Cohen Quad’s new stone comes from Hartham Park Quarry near Bath. It will be cut in Oxfordshire and transported to Cohen Quadrangle for installation.

You can read more about Cohen Quad’s stone in our previous post on the topic.

Hannah Constantine, architect at Alison Brooks Architects, reiterated her delight that Exeter has been able to re-use some of the stone from the former Ruskin College building, and that the new bricks will mirror those retained from the old site. “It has always been important for our firm to create strong links between the history of the Ruskin College site and the 21st century building we have designed. Reusing decorative stonework and commissioning the Imperial bricks helps us to fulfil this vision while at the same time creating strong aesthetic appeal.”

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Stone sample for Cohen Quadrangle
Photo of the old Ruskin College building, taken in 2009, to show the decorative stonework which has been retained. The stonework will be cleaned, restored and reinstalled on Cohen Quadrangle.
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Architect’s render of Cohen Quadrangle as seen from Worcester Place. The bricks and retained stonework can be seen on left-hand side of the building, beneath the golden roof section.
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The facade of Ruskin College (2009 photograph), which has been retained, cleaned and restored to form the facade of Cohen Quadrangle.

From Civil War Defences to 21st Century Roofing: 12 months at Cohen Quadrangle

This article was written by the Director of Development, Katrina Hancock, and appears in printed form in the 2015 edition of Exon magazine.

Exon was sent out last week to alumni and Friends of the College. An electronic version can be viewed here.


The last 12 months have been a whirlwind of activity, discovery, and celebration on the site of Exeter’s third quadrangle at Walton Street.

In November 2014 the College was thrilled to announce that the new quadrangle would be called “Cohen Quad” in recognition of the generosity of Sir Ronald Cohen (1964, PPE), who through his family’s foundation had pledged a further gift towards the quadrangle, bringing his total gift to £9m ($14m). The building will be named in honour of his parents, Michael and Sonia Cohen, who believed wholeheartedly that “education is the one thing that cannot be taken from you”. His gift, together with those of many other Exonians, has now brought the total of philanthropic funds raised for the new quadrangle to £16.5m, just £1.5m below the £18m target (which represents 50% of the original budget for the quadrangle including purchase, construction, fit out, and fees). This is a remarkable achievement and shows again what can be achieved when the College and alumni partner together to support scholarship and future generations of Exeter students.

Alumnus and benefactor Sir Ronald Cohen with architect Alison Brooks as demolition began, April 2014

In Hilary Term 2015, the College historians were delighted to learn that evidence of the Civil War defences designed by the Dutch military engineer Bernard De Gomme had been found running through the site. These defences, which are shown on Loggan’s 1675 map of Oxford, were built prior to the siege of the city in 1644. They almost certainly correspond with an east-west aligned ditch discovered at Cohen Quad, although the artefacts recovered from the ditch were exclusively medieval. Its location appears to correspond with the junction between the western end of the inner line of defences and the more substantial and symmetrical outer defensive circuit. The historic maps show that by the post-medieval period (possibly earlier) the area was drained by a network of channels in the immediate vicinity of the site, and there is quite compelling evidence that the defences depicted by de Gomme in this location are reusing existing drainage channels on the edge of the flood plain.

Also in Hilary, the College celebrated when planning permission for Cohen Quad’s stunning champagne and bronze roof was approved by the City Council. This was a pivotal moment for Exeter: we had already received approval for the shape of the roof and a metallic tiling, but it had taken over three years to reach an agreement to use the Rimex stainless steel tiles in beautiful contrasting colours, which our architect, Alison Brooks, had originally proposed. The opposition concerned glare from reflected sunlight, but the tiles will be anodised to achieve a stable and consistent colour, textured, and then bead-blasted to further reduce any shine.

Aerial Image
The roof at Cohen Quadrangle

Over Easter 2015 the basement was completed, with over 15,000 tons of earth removed (that’s around 800 lorry-loads) and the concrete slab poured. Since then, the ground and first floors have been poured and we expect to put the weatherproof roof on during the Long Vacation. Already you can stand in the special collections’ storage and reading rooms, you can see where the café will be, and you can see the north and south quadrangles. The bedrooms are marked out and you begin to get a sense of the views that students and Fellows will have over the surrounding area, with Worcester to the south and the Radcliffe Observatory and new Blavatnik School of Government to the north.

So what next? We still expect to take possession in late July 2016 and before then the interior will need to be fitted out and the exterior tiling and stone cladding completed. The bathroom pods will be delivered over the summer and the façade retention will be removed by September. Come and visit!

The Learning Commons looking towards the front of the building
The central Learning Commons at Cohen Quadrangle

Katrina Hancock, July 2015

In Praise of Curves

Cohen Quad’s got curves!  The distinctive sides of Exeter’s new campus (see header photo above) are going up as we write.

The smooth, curved shape of the upper side walls and roof begins on the second floor:

The beginnings of the curved walls and roof in Cohen Quad’s west wing.
Closer view of the curved side walls. All of this floor will be taken up with student bedrooms.

It means that the student bedrooms which make up the second floor of the west wing will all enjoy a beautiful curved ceiling.

They will eventually look like this:

West Wing
West wing of Cohen Quad, with the auditorium in the foreground.

The next stage is to build the third floor on the east wing, taking the line of the curve even higher. Indeed construction has already begun at the east of the site, above the main entrance:

View of the third floor under construction, looking east from halfway down the site and towards the main entrance (you can see the tallest part of the retained 1913 facade in the top left-hand corner of the photo).
Looking west down the length of the site from a window on the third floor, currently under construction. You can see the curved sides of the second floor in the centre of the photo, behind the red crane.

This render shows the curves of the east wing with its three floors (left-hand side) and the west wing, which finishes at the second floor (right-hand side):ElevationStay tuned for our next update on the bricks and stone that will clad the building once the frame is completed.