Looking forward to teaching at Cohen Quad

As the Fellows start to think about the year ahead, four are preparing to move into Cohen Quad and will reside in the stunning Fellows’ Sets on the third floor of the building.

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A Fellow’s Set – work in progress!

Alongside Philipp Kukura (we posted about his impressions and expectations of Cohen Quad in July), Christina de Bellaigue, Jackson Fellow in Modern History, will also be moving to Cohen Quad.

Having recently visited the site, she said: “I’ve just been down to Cohen Quad with Gez [Wells, the Deputy Bursar] and am so impressed. It really is stunning and will be a hugely invigorating space for us all to work and teach in”.

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Another Fellow’s Set


And how a Fellow’s Set will look when completed

We can tell she’s really excited as she has opted to move from her lovely set on the Front Quad at Turl Street and is looking forward to teaching some of her tutorials in the Neil Blair Special Collections Reading Room where students will be able to study from our own archives and special collections.

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The Neil Blair Special Collections Reading Room

Architect's rendering of the reading room at Cohen Quad

And how the Reading Room will look when finished

Cohen Quad – a quick (visual) recap

It’s been over 18 months now since the original Ruskin College buildings were demolished, the façade anchored in place, and 14,200 tons of earth removed in 710 lorry loads. Today, much of the core structure is completed, the auditorium is in place, and the glazing and roofing are now being put in place.

Each week, Fran Monks (Friend of Exeter) has taken a photograph of the site from the roof of her home in Worcester Place. We’ve put them all together in a time-lapse video which you can view here:


Watch as we excavate into the basement, look out for the arrival of the big red crane, see the creation of the arched colonnade, view the construction of each floor, and be amazed at the building of the auditorium with its signature wish-bone rafters! The video finishes with most of the building swathed in weatherproof plastic, but you can still catch a glimpse of the glazing and rimex roofing.

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.



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.


Fitting the Rimex metal roof tiles

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.


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.


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.


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

Exploring the Special Collections

Exeter’s Special Collections Centre at Cohen Quadrangle will be unlike anything the College has ever had before.

The College owns around 30,000 rare books and some 80 medieval manuscripts, as well as 700 years’ worth of archive material (referred to all together as the Special Collections). These are currently stored in the basement of the College library and underneath staircase 9 in cramped and dusty conditions, inaccessible for scholars who may wish to consult them.

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The Soncino Bible, part of Exeter’s Special Collections. Printed in 1488, it is the first printing of the entire vocalized Hebrew Bible text
One of Exeter's special collections
Detail from the 14th century Bohun Psalter, owned by Katherine of Aragon

In February 2015 the College announced that Cohen Quad’s basement area will be developed expressly to house its rare books and manuscripts in a Special Collections Centre. This in turn frees up an entire wing in the library on Turl Street, enabling the College to provide additional and much-needed study space for students.

The large archive storage area at Cohen Quad will have brand new rolling stacks for easy access.  A smaller side room will act as a high-security storage area for the College’s most precious collections, including the 14th century Bohun Psalter (owned by Katherine of Aragon herself), the Soncino Bible (see image above) and a manuscript copy of Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars with marginal notes by Petrarch himself.

The rooms will have inbuilt temperature and humidity regulators to ensure optimum conditions for all these precious pages. They will be protected from fire and flooding with thick walls and metal doors, giving an extra four hours’ protection. They will also be fitted with a gas suppression system which forces oxygen out of the atmosphere, thus extinguishing fire without the need for sprinklers.

The rooms will also be highly secure, with alarmed entrances and CCTV footage throughout.

The archive storage area under construction, with the floor newly laid for rolling stacks
The high-security area for Exeter’s most precious books and manuscripts

This is the first time that Exeter’s rare books and archive materials will be kept in one place and under climate-controlled conditions. Not only this, but an adjacent reading room will open up access to the collections in an unprecedented way.

The reading room will boast a large table to be shared by anyone wishing to study these materials. The walls will be panelled in glulam and cherry veneer, echoing the materials used across the rest of the site. It will be cleverly and sensitively lit, mostly thanks to a large ceiling light that draws in natural light from the North Quadrangle.

The reading room as it looks now…
Architect's rendering of the reading room at Cohen Quad
… and a render of the finished room

Joanna Bowring, the College Librarian, said:

Librarian Joanna Bowring

“The new Special Collections Centre at Cohen Quad will be nothing short of transformational for Exeter’s archives, manuscripts and rare printed books. For the first time, all of these historic collections can be kept together, in the correct environmental conditions. Exeter has extraordinary special collections and it’s so exciting that we can make them accessible and bring Exeter’s history to life in this way.”

To read more about Exeter’s special collections, please click here.

Exeter is looking forward to welcoming students, Fellows and visiting academics to the Special Collections Centre at Cohen Quadrangle, and is grateful to all the supporters who have made this project possible.

All in all, this is a basement with a difference!

Onwards – and most definitely upwards!

We are happy to report that the basement slab for Cohen Quad is now completely formed and that the internal walls of the building are being constructed. Our next step is to complete the laying of the ground floor slab and then to start building upwards so that all four floors are finished by late summer 2015.

These photos were taken yesterday by Hannah Constantine of Alison Brooks Architects. She climbed to the top of the crane in the middle of the site to capture the work going on below.

Photo taken from the centre of the site, looking east towards the main entrance. The concrete box towards the left of the picture is the lift shaft. The rectangular shapes on the platform to the left are the underside of the ground floor slab. See how the ground floor slab at the entrance (where the Porters’ Lodge will be) is already laid. Photo courtesy of Alison Brooks Architects.
Photo taken from the centre of the site, looking west towards the back of Cohen Quad, with Worcester College accommodation and grounds at the back of the picture. The basement area you can see will eventually contain all Exeter’s special collections and archive material. Photo courtesy of Alison Brooks Architects.

Exeter’s Deputy Bursar Gez Wells says “It’s great to be out of the ground and past the stage of encountering surprises that could delay the project. We expect the concrete frame to be fully constructed by the end of August and the building to be weather-proof by October this year.”

More updates to follow!

Exeter’s special collections to move to Cohen Quad

Exeter has a 30,000-strong collection of special treasures in the form of documents, papers, early printed and rare books, and manuscripts.  They are some of the College’s most precious treasures and are an important resource for historians and other academics.

In spring 2017 they will be moved to purpose-built facilities at Cohen Quadrangle. For the first time, all our special collections will be stored together and shelved on rolling racks in the appropriate environmental conditions.  There will be an adjacent reading room with comfortable furniture, including a large desk for consulting documents and plans, making our special collections more accessible than they have ever been.

College Librarian Joanna Bowring has created a dedicated blogsite to showcase some of Exeter’s special collections in advance of the big move.  Her weekly blog posts will highlight a selection of the books and documents in this extraordinary collection.

The blogsite can be viewed at http://exetercollegespecialcollections.com/

Architect's rendering of the reading room at Cohen Quad
Architect’s rendering of the reading room at Cohen Quad
One of Exeter's special collections
One of Exeter’s rare books