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

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.

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The archive storage area under construction, with the floor newly laid for rolling stacks
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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.

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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!

The Auditorium

One of the most innovative spaces at Cohen Quadrangle is the auditorium. It is a multi-purpose space that will enable Exeter to offer modern and flexible performance facilities to all manner of people, be they speakers, musicians, actors or dancers. This is Exeter’s creative hub!

The auditorium will be able to seat 110 people in a variety of ways. Filled with natural light and boasting top-of-the-range audiovisual equipment, this will be a venue for talks, performances and concerts as well as drinks and dinner events. It will also be an inspiring place to study for small groups of students, Fellows and visitors.

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Architect’s rendering of the auditorium from the inside, with a view across the North Quad to the Learning Commons and the hanging room

The room will have a side entrance so that members of the general public can access the space directly from Worcester Place, without being required to walk through the rest of the building. It also has a service lane right next to it to facilitate the transport of equipment and furniture, as well as a cloakroom and box office area.

The auditorium’s distinctive curved roof made of glulam supports is now under construction, as you can see from the following photos. The roof will boast a ‘green’ section beneath its curve, planted up with hardy evergreen shrubs that offer an attractive view for the student bedrooms that overlook this space.

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The auditorium under construction, viewed from one of the residential floors at Cohen Quad
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The auditorium under construction, viewed from Worcester Place
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Close-up of the glulam supports that sustain the curved roof. The shrubs that form the ‘green roof’ will be planted along the straight line you can see starting to form in the foreground 
The site viewed from Worcester Place
Architect’s rendering of the completed auditorium (in the foreground, with the bicycle racks alongside it) with its curved wall and roof. The ‘green roof’ lies beneath the curve, fully visible from the student bedrooms that look out over this part of the site
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Cohen Quad’s ground floor plan with the auditorium circled. Note the side entrance from Worcester Place (far left), meaning visitors are not required to walk the length of Cohen Quad to reach this space

The room will also boast a performance-standard grand piano, as well as space for instrument storage.  Donations to enable the College to purchase a new piano would be very warmly welcomed!

Imagination Versus Reality

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In the early days of our Walton Street project, many of us found it hard to actually imagine a whole new campus forming part of the College footprint. It sounded so vast and so exciting: unprecedented and therefore intangible expansion for Exeter.

Alison Brooks Architects‘ renders, with their detail, their crystal-clear image quality and their helpful “to scale” people (many wearing year-round sub-fusc), have been enormously useful in enabling us to get both a sense of the scale of the building and of how the finished rooms could look.

Now that construction is well underway, it is exciting to compare the original renders to the building as it develops. Take a look at these photos (taken on 1st October 2015) alongside the architect’s visualizations to get a sense of what the finished building will look like.

Study

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The Learning Commons – autumn 2015. You can already make out the position of the hanging teaching room (top right-hand corner), with its long window. Soon the auditorium and North Quad will start to appear where the large gap is currently (see render directly below)
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The Learning Commons as it will be in autumn 2016, with the hanging room on the upper right-hand side and the view across the North Quad to the auditorium

Socialise

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The South Quad under construction – autumn 2015. You can already make out the stone steps (bottom centre of photo) leading down to the cafe. These steps will be bathed in afternoon and evening sunlight
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Architect’s render of the South Quad, with steps leading down to the cafe. The Learning Commons is directly above. Walk along the covered colonnade towards the right of the picture and you’ll reach the Porters’ Lodge
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Close-up of the cafe, with its indoor and outdoor seating areas. The servery is at the back of the photo

Sleep

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Student bedroom under construction – autumn 2015
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Architect’s render of a student bedroom
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Architect’s render of a student bedroom (note the two windows that already appear in the construction photo above)

Salute

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The Porters’ Lodge, autumn 2015. The archway is the main entrance to the building
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Render of the Porters’ Lodge, which will be a reality by autumn 2016!

Something Old, Something New

This article was written by the Deputy Director of Development, Tessa Stanley Price, and appears in printed form in the 2015 edition of Exon magazine.

Exon was sent out in August 2015 to alumni and Friends of the College. An electronic version can be viewed here.

…..

Picture the scene: 0th Week of Michaelmas Term 2016, just over a year from now. Our returning Finalists are heaving their belongings into College after the Long Vac. Nothing unusual about that, except this time they are not unpacking on Turl Street, but on Walton Street in Jericho. Exeter’s long-awaited third quadrangle is finally open for business.

Exeter was always clear that its new campus had to be much more than a glorified dormitory building or a secondary annexe to the main College. Yes, additional student accommodation was sorely needed, but so too was teaching, study and relaxation space. The brief for our architects was therefore to develop a full quadrangle that would represent the “collegiate ideal”, where students and scholars live, teach and learn alongside each other. The support of a great many alumni and Friends has enabled Exeter to transform this vision into bricks and mortar.

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Ground floor plan of Cohen Quadrangle

One of the challenges presented by the physical expansion of the College is the connection of the two sites – how can we link a 21st century building to historic Exeter, with its 600-year-old Palmer’s Tower, 19th century chapel and Jacobean dining hall? One way is by bringing some of Exeter’s creative past onto the new campus. The College’s original William Morris carpet has been removed from the Rector’s Lodgings to be cleaned and restored before being hung on the ground floor of Cohen Quad, and display units nearby will feature changing exhibitions on College history.

Next to the Morris carpet will stand a proud acquisition for the new quadrangle: two stained glass windows designed and executed by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris, who met as undergraduates at Exeter in the 1850s. The stunning windows portray scenes from four biblical parables. They will be purchased from a church in north London thanks to the gifts of many Exonians and Friends, including six members of one family in memory of their husband, father and grandfather. We hope these installations will help to merge Exeter’s past, present and future.

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The Moneylenders in the Temple, one of four parables depicted in the Morris/Burne-Jones stained glass windows

“History” is also represented more literally on the site: one of the quadrangle’s five ground-floor seminar rooms will be named the Maddicott Room in recognition of the service Dr John Maddicott, Fellow in History from 1969 to 2006, has given Exeter. Dr Maddicott remains active in writing and research, and published Founders and Fellowship: The Early History of Exeter College, Oxford to coincide with Exeter’s 700th anniversary in 2014. Many of his former students have chosen to make a donation in his honour and we hope to reach our £100,000 target by Christmas. From five-figure donors to the recent graduate who gives £20 a month, everyone is doing their bit, at the level they are comfortable with.

Architect's impression of a teaching and seminar room at Cohen Quad
Architect’s impression of a teaching and seminar room at Cohen Quad

The first, second and third floors of the campus are residential. Each student will have a single room with generous desk space and an en-suite bathroom. Older Exonians will no doubt be glad to hear that students no longer need to wander down lengthy corridors, nor cross quads to basement bathrooms, to perform their ablutions! The bedrooms are available for naming and many people have already made donations to secure “their” room on the site.

Student Room
Architect’s render of a student bedroom

On each residential floor there will be kitchens for student use, the largest of which will be the Cairncross Kitchen. Named in honour of Rector Frances Cairncross and her 10 years’ service to the College (during which time she conceived the vision for a new campus and oversaw Cohen Quad’s purchase), it will be a place for students to come together, cook and relax. 135 generous people have given nearly £140,000 to honour Frances and provide this shared space, which to her represents such an important part of collegiate living.

The College has a long tradition of making use of subterranean space (think of the Saskatchewan, Quarrell, Balsdon and Stapeldon Rooms, and the College Bar). Cohen Quad is no exception. Its basement will house our 30,000 rare books and manuscripts; the first time they will have been kept in one place and in climate-controlled conditions. An adjacent reading room will open up access to these special collections in an unprecedented way.

Architect's rendering of the reading room at Cohen Quad
Architect’s rendering of the reading room at Cohen Quad

All these projects would be no more than pipe dreams if it hadn’t been for the enormous generosity of Exeter alumni and Friends over the last few years, through gifts large and small.

Cohen Quad, the most significant expansion in Exeter’s 700-year history, will be for everyone. It therefore shouldn’t be a surprise that so many people have contributed to its creation. We hope that even more will choose to do so as we countdown to the 2016 grand opening.

Inside a Student Bedroom

The first student bedrooms are starting to take shape!  Cohen Quad’s building team have now begun to construct the individual rooms that our students will occupy.

Cohen Quad will provide accommodation for 90 students (including five bedrooms specially adapted for wheelchair users).  Each room will have a bed, large desk, shelving, storage and plenty of natural light.  The large windowsill doubles up as additional seating space.

All the bedrooms are en suite; click here to read our earlier post about Cohen Quad’s modern bathrooms.

In other news, the first floor slab has now been cast across the site, the second floor slab has been cast by the original façade at the east of the site, and the stair and lift cores are progressing to the third floor on the east wing.  Grey skies cannot dampen our enthusiasm!

More updates soon.

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Student bedrooms under construction on the first floor (where you can see the orange supports).
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The second floor slab, where student bedrooms are being laid out.
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“Inside” a student bedroom; you can see the large window which will flood the room with light and the smaller window to the right, which will provide natural light where the long desk will be.
Student Room Window
Architect’s impression of a student bedroom (you can see Worcester College in the distance).
Student Room
Architect’s impression of a student bedroom.
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Plan showing the student bedrooms on the first floor.