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

FitzHugh Auditorium revealed

This roof top picture, kindly taken by local resident Fran Monks earlier today, reveals Cohen Quad’s auditorium.

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The Auditorium (front right of picture) with its distinctive curved roof

Now completely clear of scaffolding, the stone work and Rimex tiling are visible giving a further sense of the beautiful scope and nature of Alison Brooks’ design for Cohen Quad.

Internally, the stone cladding is being completed while ensuring that the wishbone glulam beams remain visible as a stunning feature of the space.

The auditorium, to be known as the FitzHugh Auditorium, will be able to seat 110 people for a lecture or concert and 100 people for a banquet. We’re looking forward to being able to host symposiums, concerts, student performances, gala dinners, and even film nights here and are sure that the students will come up with even more ideas (perhaps the next Burns Night Ceilidh)!

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The internal beams of the FitzHugh Auditorium

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Architect render of the finished Auditorium

Progress report: Cohen Quad is watertight and works have begun internally

We are pleased to report that work at Cohen Quad is progressing well and the main site activities are now focused on fitting out the building’s contents.

One of the last windows to be fitted – an impressive dormer window on the fourth floor with exceptional views over Jericho – was installed in March and the building is now fundamentally watertight. This has allowed the internal fit-out to begin, including the interior joinery and plaster boarding.

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The dormer window with its exceptional views over Jericho

The wiring has been completed in the basement and on the ground floor and next week work will begin on the interior stonework on these floors. Meanwhile the electricians have moved to the first floor as they work their way up the building.

On the outside the first Rimex metal roof tiles have been fitted to the building’s exterior. These will give Cohen Quad its distinctive metallic roof and will also cover the exterior of some walls. Panel by panel the exterior of Cohen Quad will take shape and come the end of June the large crane that has dominated the site for many months will be removed, making it possible to see clearly how the finished building will look.

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Fitting the Rimex metal roof tiles

The Learning Commons at Cohen Quad

The Learning Commons will be at the heart of Cohen Quad – a place where, at a glance, you can see who’s there already and who’s arriving (a bit like the Front Quad really!). It’s on several different levels, with the café in the basement and a teaching room elevated above the mezzanine on the Worcester Place wall. The space will be used by undergraduate and graduate students, as well as Fellows, staff, and visitors, who want to use its flexible layout while working alone or in groups. With the café on hand with good coffee, and wifi to support multiple personal devices, this will be the academic hub of Cohen Quad.

The images show the architect’s rendering (bottom) and construction to date (top). The north cloister is already in place and the glazing to the North Quadrangle gives an indication of just how much natural light will flood this area. It still needs a bit of work, but the sense of fluid space is already clear. It won’t be long before the fixtures and fittings are in place.

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Part of the Learning Commons as it stands today – still a work in progress

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Architect’s render of how the Learning Commons will look once it is complete, from a similar position to the top photo

Supporter Stories: Justin Bronder (2003, Astrophysics) and the Dakota Foundation

At the heart of Cohen Quad will be a café serving hot and cold food and drinks. The café will form a social hub for students and fellows to meet, make friends and lifelong connections, and exchange ideas. It will be named the Dakota Café after the Dakota Foundation, founded by alumnus Bart Holaday (1965, PPE), which has supported the Walton Street development as part of its mission to enhance human capabilities through activities that combine business discipline with charitable intent.

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Architect render of the Dakota Café 

Exeter alumnus and member of the Dakota Foundation board Justin Bronder (2003, Astrophysics) visited Cohen Quad in January 2016 with his wife Jennifer (2002, Music) to see how work is progressing at the site.

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Inspecting the site from Worcester Place

“I remember being briefed on the planned extension of the College and being blown away by the vision,” he said. “I thought about what it would mean to me, if I were a student again, to have amazing facilities like that so close to the centre of Oxford and to the College’s main site. When I thought about what future Exeter students will have I was kind of a bit jealous!

“I lived at Exeter House before it was renovated. It was part of the Oxford experience I enjoyed, but you might say it was ‘gritty’! Rector Cairncross came to Exeter a year after I started with a vision and did a great job making that vision reality. Exeter House has now been renovated for members of the MCR and the development at Walton Street is a continuation of that vision, with amazing accommodation for members of the JCR and study facilities for the whole College. Cohen Quad has got all the facilities that appeal to modern, professional students. Today it is students at other colleges who will be jealous of Exeter!

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Exeter’s Development Assistant Rosemary Hurford (centre) talks Justin and his wife Jennifer through the construction work and the vision for the site

“The Dakota Café reflects the habits of students and professionals and today’s culture. We live in a café culture. The Dakota Café will be an important part of the academic and social life of the College. I’m proud to serve on an organisation that helps make that possible for Exeter.”

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Justin and Jennifer in front of what will be the lecture theatre and north-facing quadrangle

Behind the curtain

Since November 2015 Cohen Quad has been cloaked in weather-proof sheeting. But sadly what keeps the elements out also keeps prying eyes at bay, and the progress at Exeter’s third quadrangle is no longer immediately obvious to the passing observer.

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Cohen Quad under wraps in November 2015

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…and Cohen Quad in January 2016

But behind the façade of plastic sheeting progress is continuing apace. Currently the exterior windows are being installed – known as a curtain wall in the construction industry as they form a non-structural exterior to the building. And behind that curtain much work is taking place inside the development too.

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Some of the recently installed curtain glazing

Both of the passenger lifts are under construction, with Lift 1 already having its door in place.

Underfloor heating is being installed in the basement and the ground floor. The remaining floors will also benefit from underfloor heating in due course.

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Curtain glazing (top right), underfloor heating (bottom right) and one of the lifts under construction (top left)

Also in the basement mechanical and electrical work is being undertaken, including the installation of the building’s boilers and an air source heat pump which will transfer heat from outside to inside the building, providing an efficient and environmentally friendly way to heat Cohen Quad and its water.

So while from the outside it may be hard for the casual observer to notice much change, inside Cohen Quad great strides are being taken towards the development’s completion ready for its first students in Michaelmas 2016.

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An example of the amazing views that can be enjoyed from Cohen Quad

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.

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Then… The retained facade and its metal supports, May 2015
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…And now: the supports coming off, November 2015. (Oh for those summer days of blue skies and sunshine!)
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Cohen Quadrangle’s facade, soon to be covered in scaffolding
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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.
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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.