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

Exeter College takes possession of Cohen Quad

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

Contractors put finishing touches on student rooms

Over the last few weeks, Mace (our contractors) have been working to finish specific areas of Cohen Quad ahead of handing the whole site over to us at the end of the calendar year.

Last week, focus was on snagging student bedrooms ahead of moving in furniture and fitting out the three student kitchens.

Two other key pieces of work were to build and install the pigeon holes that will be used by the Cohen Quad residents and to pave the Benson Quad and its amphitheatre steps. Each of these steps will be engraved with the names of donors who gave £7,000 or more during the 700th anniversary year and will provide a wonderful outdoor area adjacent to the café where students can sit out and enjoy a coffee – when it’s not raining of course!

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Paving leading into the amphitheatre steps of Benson Quad 

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The pigeon holes

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

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”