Something Old, Something New

This article was written by the Deputy Director of Development, Tessa Stanley Price, and appears in printed form in the 2015 edition of Exon magazine.

Exon was sent out in August 2015 to alumni and Friends of the College. An electronic version can be viewed here.


Picture the scene: 0th Week of Michaelmas Term 2016, just over a year from now. Our returning Finalists are heaving their belongings into College after the Long Vac. Nothing unusual about that, except this time they are not unpacking on Turl Street, but on Walton Street in Jericho. Exeter’s long-awaited third quadrangle is finally open for business.

Exeter was always clear that its new campus had to be much more than a glorified dormitory building or a secondary annexe to the main College. Yes, additional student accommodation was sorely needed, but so too was teaching, study and relaxation space. The brief for our architects was therefore to develop a full quadrangle that would represent the “collegiate ideal”, where students and scholars live, teach and learn alongside each other. The support of a great many alumni and Friends has enabled Exeter to transform this vision into bricks and mortar.

Ground floor plan of Cohen Quadrangle

One of the challenges presented by the physical expansion of the College is the connection of the two sites – how can we link a 21st century building to historic Exeter, with its 600-year-old Palmer’s Tower, 19th century chapel and Jacobean dining hall? One way is by bringing some of Exeter’s creative past onto the new campus. The College’s original William Morris carpet has been removed from the Rector’s Lodgings to be cleaned and restored before being hung on the ground floor of Cohen Quad, and display units nearby will feature changing exhibitions on College history.

Next to the Morris carpet will stand a proud acquisition for the new quadrangle: two stained glass windows designed and executed by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris, who met as undergraduates at Exeter in the 1850s. The stunning windows portray scenes from four biblical parables. They will be purchased from a church in north London thanks to the gifts of many Exonians and Friends, including six members of one family in memory of their husband, father and grandfather. We hope these installations will help to merge Exeter’s past, present and future.

The Moneylenders in the Temple, one of four parables depicted in the Morris/Burne-Jones stained glass windows

“History” is also represented more literally on the site: one of the quadrangle’s five ground-floor seminar rooms will be named the Maddicott Room in recognition of the service Dr John Maddicott, Fellow in History from 1969 to 2006, has given Exeter. Dr Maddicott remains active in writing and research, and published Founders and Fellowship: The Early History of Exeter College, Oxford to coincide with Exeter’s 700th anniversary in 2014. Many of his former students have chosen to make a donation in his honour and we hope to reach our £100,000 target by Christmas. From five-figure donors to the recent graduate who gives £20 a month, everyone is doing their bit, at the level they are comfortable with.

Architect's impression of a teaching and seminar room at Cohen Quad
Architect’s impression of a teaching and seminar room at Cohen Quad

The first, second and third floors of the campus are residential. Each student will have a single room with generous desk space and an en-suite bathroom. Older Exonians will no doubt be glad to hear that students no longer need to wander down lengthy corridors, nor cross quads to basement bathrooms, to perform their ablutions! The bedrooms are available for naming and many people have already made donations to secure “their” room on the site.

Student Room
Architect’s render of a student bedroom

On each residential floor there will be kitchens for student use, the largest of which will be the Cairncross Kitchen. Named in honour of Rector Frances Cairncross and her 10 years’ service to the College (during which time she conceived the vision for a new campus and oversaw Cohen Quad’s purchase), it will be a place for students to come together, cook and relax. 135 generous people have given nearly £140,000 to honour Frances and provide this shared space, which to her represents such an important part of collegiate living.

The College has a long tradition of making use of subterranean space (think of the Saskatchewan, Quarrell, Balsdon and Stapeldon Rooms, and the College Bar). Cohen Quad is no exception. Its basement will house our 30,000 rare books and manuscripts; the first time they will have been kept in one place and in climate-controlled conditions. An adjacent reading room will open up access to these special collections in an unprecedented way.

Architect's rendering of the reading room at Cohen Quad
Architect’s rendering of the reading room at Cohen Quad

All these projects would be no more than pipe dreams if it hadn’t been for the enormous generosity of Exeter alumni and Friends over the last few years, through gifts large and small.

Cohen Quad, the most significant expansion in Exeter’s 700-year history, will be for everyone. It therefore shouldn’t be a surprise that so many people have contributed to its creation. We hope that even more will choose to do so as we countdown to the 2016 grand opening.

Heavy Metal at Cohen Quadrangle

As promised, here is a pre-weekend update on the steel roof trusses at Cohen Qudrangle.

What is a roof truss?  It’s a structural framework designed to bridge the space above a room and to provide support for a roof.  Ours are made of steel and are now being installed at the site.  Excitingly, this means the full shape of the roof-line has become clear for the first time:

18 Sept 2
Steel roof cladding now showing the curved roof-line. Image by Fran Monks.

In the picture above you can see how metal wall framing and stone cladding has also begun.

Deputy Bursar Gez Wells pointing out the steel roof trusses of the top floor

In other news, glue-laminated spruce (“glulam” for short) is now being produced for Cohen Quad in a factory near Amsterdam. Made of individual laminations of solid timber glued together, glulam is larger and longer than standard logs. It is therefore perfect for use in both our South Cloister colonnade and as the timber frame for the auditorium.

The Deputy Bursar will shortly be asked to approve the glulam’s moisture content – then it will be shipped across to Oxford ready for installation.

Don’t tell me that we don’t keep you fully updated on all that is happening on Oxford’s most exciting building site!

Porters' Lodge
Architect’s render of the South Cloister colonnade, made of glulam, leading off the Porters’ Lodge and main entrance.
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Architect’s early designs of the auditorium.
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Auditorium with its distinctive curved glulam roof.

Bathroom News

Just a brief note from Cohen Quadrangle to announce that installation of student bathroom pods will shortly begin (surely the news you’ve all been waiting for!).

After a short summer delay, the pods are on their way to Oxford and will be installed at Cohen Quadrangle in early October. Amazingly, they travel almost fully assembled which means that installation at their destination should be fast and smooth.

Every one of the 90 student bedrooms at Cohen Quadrangle will be en suite. You can read more about the bathrooms (and their Spanish provenance) in our earlier post.

Bathroom pods ready for installation at Cohen Quadrangle
Bathrooms – as far as the eye can see
CQ bathroom 2
Architect’s rendering of a bathroom pod

Stay tuned for our next Cohen Quad update, featuring steel roof trusses!

Supporter Stories: Spencer Phua and Julie Phua-Ng

Siblings Spencer Phua (1987, PPE) and Julie Phua-Ng (1991, Philosophy and Modern Languages) came to Exeter from Singapore and have fond memories of their student days in Oxford.  They were excited to hear about opportunities to support the development of Cohen Quadrangle when the site was purchased in 2011.  Together, they have made a donation which will see one of the building’s 90 student bedrooms named in their honour.

Spencer recalls: “In my first year at Exeter, l lived in the Back Quad in College, behind the Chapel.  Staircase 14, I think, on the second floor.  I liked it because it had a separate bedroom and study room.  For my second and third years, l lived out of College, up the Banbury Road.  They were private rental rooms in two of the large old houses on the road and so I didn’t really spend much time in Exeter-owned accommodation during my degree.”

Spencer and Julie are very happy to support Cohen Quad, particularly the residential spaces, because of the prestige the new facilities will bring the College: “Good housing conditions and more College-owned accommodation for students will help attract a strong application pool.  Graduates who speak well of Exeter’s facilities will then act as a strong advertisement to other potential students,” Spencer wrote in an email.

Spencer also feels a need to help Exeter and also Oxford more generally, saying that “Between my two alma maters, Oxford receives less funding than the US business school I attended for my MBA.  It therefore makes sense for me to support the College and University in their development efforts to offer an amazing education to students from all backgrounds and from all over the world.”

Exeter is grateful to Spencer and Julie for their enthusiasm for the new campus and for their generous support, helping us to create modern, comfortable facilities for our students to enjoy. We are looking forward to showing them Cohen Quadrangle on their next UK visit!

Spencer Phua photo cropped
Spencer Phua
Julia Phua-Ng photo
Julie Phua-Ng

Donations can still be made to name a student bedroom on Cohen Quadrangle; please contact the Development Office for more information.

To read more about the student bedrooms at Cohen Quadrangle, click here.