Glorious Glulam

It’s a damp morning in Oxford, but it’s also the start of Eighth Week which means that the end of term is in sight!

To brighten your Monday, here are some photographs taken of the auditorium by Hannah Constantine of Alison Brooks Architects. It’s making remarkable progress and the glulam supports are looking fantastic. When you stand in the completed building and look up, you will be able to see these beautiful wooden curves holding everything together.

To learn more about the auditorium and all that it will offer at Cohen Quadrangle, you can read our earlier blog post.






Architect’s render of the completed auditorium (it won’t be as dark as this inside!)
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Model of the auditorium

Know Your Ruskins

Ever since Exeter announced in 2008 that it had reached an agreement to purchase Ruskin College’s Walton Street campus in Jericho, many Exonians have admitted to being a little confused about their Ruskins (Is that the famous art school? Is it a further education college?). We feel that an explanatory note is long overdue! So here’s the lowdown:

The Ruskin School of Art, part of the University of Oxford, was opened by John Ruskin in 1871 as the Ruskin School of Drawing. It offers a Bachelor in Fine Art degree for undergraduates and a Masters and DPhil in Fine Art for postgraduates. It has two sites, 74 High Street and 128 Bullingdon Road. Exeter welcomes one Fine Art student per academic year. The Ruskin School of Art has no direct connection to Cohen Quadrangle.

Ruskin School of Art on Oxford’s High Street. Photograph by Nic Ansell

In 1899, Ruskin College (originally Ruskin Hall) was founded in the city of Oxford, independent of the University. It “aimed to provide university-standard education for working class people to empower them to act more effectively on behalf of working class communities and organisations such as trade unions, political parties, co-operative societies and working men’s institutes”. Its alumni include British politician John Prescott, Kenyan civil rights advocate Tom Mboya and Siaka Probyn Stevens, Prime Minister and President of Sierra Leone.

Ruskin College is now an affiliate of the University of Oxford, which ensures that its students can access many University facilities such as libraries and social spaces, as well as academic and extra-curricular events and societies.

Ruskin’s campus is in Headington, East Oxford, but its original site was on Walton Street. Its grand red-brick Victorian building was completed in 1913 and various extensions were added over the next 60 years. This is the site that Exeter College purchased in March 2010.

The Ruskin College building soon after completion in 1913. Photograph taken from
Ruskin College garden
Ruskin College from the inside, taken from near the back of the site and looking west to east. The wing on the left-hand side is a 1930s extension. Photograph taken from
Similar view from 2009 after the sale agreement between Ruskin and Exeter was signed, taken from the very back of the site looking west to east. Note the addition of the 1960s grey concrete accommodation block, the 1980s redbrick accommodation block (left foreground) and the subterranean library (centre of image)

Yet the connections between Exeter and Ruskin College go deeper than that. When Rector Cairncross wrote to Exeter alumni in 2008 to tell them of the sale agreement, she said: “There is a nice historical twist to this arrangement. William Morris was an undergraduate at Exeter College, and had close links with John Ruskin. Ruskin College in turn was founded to educate those who were otherwise excluded from education – on principles established through the collaboration of these two social and educational pioneers.”

After the Second World War, an even closer link between the two colleges developed, when Exeter offered a place each Michaelmas term to an entrant from Ruskin to read for an undergraduate degree. You can read about the experiences of Ruskin and Exeter alumnus Tony Moreton (1952, PPE) on pp26-28 of the Exeter College Register 2011.

Exeter College took official possession of the site in October 2012 and all of Ruskin College’s activities were relocated to its newly-renovated campus in Headington.

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Rector Cairncross receives the keys to the former Ruskin College building from Professor Audrey Mullender, former Principal of Ruskin College, in October 2012



We hope that this helps to explain Exeter’s history with Ruskin College and that any confusion between the two Ruskins has been cleared up. Of course, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to be in touch.

Finally, fear not: we’ll be back to bricks and mortar in our next Cohen Quad update.

Sources: Ruskin College websiteThe History of Ruskin College by Harold Pollins (1984); Oxford History website; Wikipedia; Ruskin School of Art website; Exeter College Register (2011).

Invest in Cohen Quad

The generous support of alumni and Friends of Exeter has enabled us to purchase the former Ruskin College site on Walton Street, enlist award-winning architects to produce an innovative design for the new campus, and begin to make this vision a reality during construction.

New brochure outlining remaining opportunities for support

The total cost of purchasing, designing and building Cohen Quadrangle is expected to be £46m. To date, over £17m has been given in donations from Exeter alumni and Friends out of a fundraising goal of £18m. This means that we are just £1m short of our target!

New brochure outlining remaining opportunities for support

Be part of Exeter’s future! This is your last opportunity to support the quadrangle as it enters its final few months of construction. Donations of all sizes are extremely welcome, and examples of what your gifts could achieve are set out below.

Student bedroom

There will be 90 student bedrooms at Cohen Quadrangle, all with en-suite bathrooms, with views looking out across Jericho, North Oxford, Worcester College and beyond.

A donation of £10,000 will name a student bedroom (with a plaque outside the door honouring your support) as you direct. Click here to read about two Exonians who have done exactly this.

Student bedroom

South Quadrangle steps

The amphitheatre-style steps in Cohen Quad’s South Quadrangle are a sun-trap, providing an attractive outside seating area for Exonians during the summer months. The steps lead down to the Dakota Cafe and up to the Porters’ Lodge and main entrance, forming an important pathway through the site.

A donation of £7,000 will see your name engraved on a step in the South Quadrangle as a visible marker of your support of the new building.

The steps in the South Quadrangle, leading down to the Dakota Cafe

Chair in the auditorium

Cohen Quad’s auditorium will be Exeter’s first above-ground lecture and performance venue.  It is a large, multi-purpose space that offers modern facilities for a wide range of activities.

A donation of £2,000 will ensure there is a chair named in your honour in this exciting part of Cohen Quadrangle.

Lecture Theatre
The auditorium

There are opportunities to invest in other parts of Cohen Quad, too. To see the full range of projects to support such as the Cairncross Kitchen and the Maddicott and Eltis Rooms, please click here.

To make or to discuss a donation, please contact Development Director Katrina Hancock.

Supporter Stories: Bart and Cathy Holaday

Bart Holaday came to Exeter as a Rhodes Scholar from North Dakota in 1965.  He read for a two-year PPE degree and became heavily involved in College life.

Fast-tracking 50 years, Bart remembers clearly his first discussion in 2009 with former Rector Dame Frances Cairncross about the opportunity to purchase the site for sale on Walton Street.  He admired her commitment and vision and was delighted to be involved in the plans for the new campus from the outset.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to expand the College’s footprint in such a significant way 700 years after our foundation, and it’s a great thing for the University too,” Bart said in a phone call to us recently.  “My wife Cathy and I were taken in by the College’s ambition to achieve this enormous project and we are delighted to play our part in bringing Exeter’s third quadrangle into existence.”

Bart and Cathy Holaday (photo courtesy of the Dakota Foundation)
Bart and Cathy Holaday (photo courtesy of the Dakota Foundation)

Bart fully believes that Exeter should offer more modern facilities to students.  During his two years at the College he lived in staircase 7 on the Front Quad and in a room in Margary Quad, which was then only two years old and which offered some of the most modern accommodation in Oxford at the time.  He feels it is only right that the College develop 21st century residential and study space to better meet the needs of today’s students.

Bart and Cathy are particularly excited by the thoughtful design of Cohen Quadrangle, with its intermingled learning and living spaces.  Bart feels strongly that as much of his Oxford education happened outside his tutorials as in them, such as the spontaneous discussions that happened in the undercroft buttery, or the debates that took place over dinner in Hall.  During his time at Oxford he met students of many nationalities and from many backgrounds, who influenced him profoundly and encouraged him to broaden his perspective.

Through their family foundation, the Dakota Foundation, Bart and Cathy have made a gift to Cohen Quadrangle to support precisely this: the interdisciplinary, intellectual-come-social contact that springs up in collegiate spaces.  In recognition of this gift, Exeter is delighted to name the Dakota Café at Cohen Quad in Bart and Cathy’s honour.

The Dakota Café, serving hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, cakes and other snacks, will be at the heart of Cohen Quadrangle.  It will have plentiful seating space and an open, friendly feel, where students can meet to socialise or study – or both.  With WiFi throughout and generous opening hours, it will be a popular part of Cohen Quad.  In many ways, it has been devised to echo those same gatherings and discussions that Bart experienced as a student at Exeter in the 1960s, in a modern setting.

Architect's render of the Dakota Cafe
Architect’s render of the Dakota Cafe

Bart finished our call by saying how much he has enjoyed following the genesis of Cohen Quad and how excited he is by its imminent opening.  He feels there could be no better way for Exeter to enter its eighth century than by expanding its physical footprint in this way.  “Cohen Quadrangle is innovative, creative and focussed on students: what a vastly positive thing this is for Exeter College.”

Cohen Quad: Not Just a Pretty Face

It’s a rainy Thursday afternoon in Oxford: surely the perfect time for a status update on Cohen Quadrangle!

We are pleased to report that the facade supports have now come down. The metal frame that held up the listed Edwardian frontage during the initial stages of construction has now been removed after 15 long months. Soon the building will be shrouded in scaffolding and plastic sheeting while the next phase of construction takes place.

Ruskin College’s governing body notes of 1912 describe this same view: “The new buildings present a handsome frontage to Walton Street. They are Georgian in design, and are a worthy addition to the many beautiful buildings.”

Exeter’s architect, Alison Brooks, incorporated the frontage into her plans for the redevelopment of the site, designing a modern building around it. Many of her designs for the rest of the building were inspired by this 1912 section.

Then… The retained facade and its metal supports, May 2015
…And now: the supports coming off, November 2015. (Oh for those summer days of blue skies and sunshine!)
Cohen Quadrangle’s facade, soon to be covered in scaffolding
The facade. The main entrance leads in to a Porters’ Lodge, with a seminar room on the right and offices on the left. Soon the windows on ground floor will be lowered to street level (see next image). The first and second floors will be student bedrooms.
Walton Street View Looking South
Architect’s impression of the completed building. Note how the windows on the ground floor go all the way down to street level, letting as much light into the rooms as possible

In other news, all the glulam beams are now installed in the auditorium, ready for the external walls to go up around them.

And finally, most of the building’s windows will arrive this week!  It never stops at Cohen Quadrangle.