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.
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 Eyre, Parade’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”.
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.
It is with great pleasure that we announce that the College took possession of Cohen Quad on Friday 23rd December after a tremendous final push by all involved in getting the building ready. All those expecting to live and work at Cohen Quad this year will be able to do so from Sunday 8th January, including the students who will be resident there for the rest of the academic year. It has been a long journey and everyone has been incredibly supportive and patient as we have worked round the clock to see the building completed as quickly as possible.
A completed study-bedroom
The 90 student study-bedrooms are now fully furnished as are the three family kitchens and most of the teaching rooms. We are in the process of putting the final touches to the Learning Commons, Student Common Room and Front Desk and, over the course of Hilary Term, will complete the auditorium and café, expecting to be able to serve food in the café from Monday of 1st Week. At just a 9-minute walk across town, we hope that all those based at the Turl Street site will take time to visit during Hilary Term: Cohen Quad is for all College members, whether they’re resident or not, and all students – graduates, undergraduates, and Williams – are welcome to come and go as they please. Cohen Quad really is our third quad and we are excited about the wonderful spaces and facilities it offers.
A family kitchen
We know that many of our alumni and neighbours will be keen to visit. We will be in touch with details of opportunities to drop in: right now we’re focussed on getting the building up and running and making preparations for the formal opening on 18th and 19th March 2017 to which all donors will be invited.
The entrance of Cohen Quad with colonade
It really is a superb building and, with scaffolding and protective covers removed, the light and the quality of the building materials provide a stunning environment for living and working. As the Sunday Times said this week, this is a building to watch in 2017!
This roof top picture, kindly taken by local resident Fran Monks earlier today, reveals Cohen Quad’s auditorium.
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)!
The internal beams of the FitzHugh Auditorium
Architect render of the finished Auditorium
The glazing is now complete in Cohen Quad’s auditorium and, with the summer sun pouring in, it’s easy to see what a stunning and dynamic performance and lecture space this will be.
The auditorium glazing
The wishbone timber rafters create a unique sense of identity which are further illuminated by the roof lights installed towards the front of the auditorium.
The timber rafters with light pouring into the auditorium
From the exterior, on the scaffolding of the third floor, looking down, the curve of the roof is easy to spot and is an elegant addition to the north quadrangle.
View of the exterior
The interior walls will be stone clad, and there is a hidden storage space behind a false wall to the west of the building in order to store furniture when it’s not needed. This will ensure that the auditorium is fully versatile and suitable for performances, lectures, concerts, and even dinners.
The interior of the auditorium
With the spring sunshine pouring onto the Cohen Quad site, it is easy to get a sense of how vibrant and light the new quadrangle is going to be. Katrina visited the site with Dr Jeremy Llewellyn, our Music Lecturer, who has been helping us to think about what type of piano will best suit the music practice room and, ultimately, in the auditorium.
The music practice room is situated towards the rear of the site, close to the auditorium and with south facing windows that (when the scaffolding is removed!) will fill the room with natural light. This is a far cry from the basement practice room on Turl Street which is situated next to the boiler and underneath Staircase 14!
Dr Jeremy Llewellyn inspects the music practice room
It’s likely that the best instrument will be a baby grand – if it will fit. Whatever instrument is chosen, we hope that it will attract students who want to play – for pleasure or for their degree – and who will then perhaps play for wider audiences in the auditorium!
The auditorium – work in progress!
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.
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.
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!
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.”
Justin and Jennifer in front of what will be the lecture theatre and north-facing quadrangle