Fellows and students enjoying Cohen Quad

Professor Christina de Bellaigue, Jackson Fellow in Modern History, moved from Turl Street to Cohen Quad at the start of term. She is now installed in one of the Fellows’ teaching rooms on the third floor of Cohen Quad and her office looks out over the auditorium towards the western outskirts of Oxford. Here’s what she says:

“As one of the Fellows who has just moved into Cohen Quad, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who made it possible. It’s an inspiring building to work and teach in, even still in progress, and the views are fantastic. The building is going to bring such a new lease of life to the College.

“I held a workshop on admissions, outreach and access in the Kloppenburg Room on Tuesday. It was fantastic, we could all hear what each participant was saying, the room was comfortable and accessible to everyone, and we had lots of good ideas about how we could make good Exeter’s commitment (dating back to 1314!) to recruit the most able students from all walks of life, and honour the spirit of Ruskin College (which was established to extend access to education, and on whose former site Cohen Quad now stands). It’s really exciting to have the opportunity to organise events like this because we now have the space. I’m confident that the building will become a hive of intellectual activity and a key hub for academic exchange.

“I also love walking around and seeing the students at work in the Learning Commons or chatting over coffee, and I can’t wait to use the Special Collections rooms to teach some of them. On a personal level, after 10 years at Turl Street, I feel re-energised and ready for anything.”

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The view from Professor de Bellaigue’s teaching room

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!

 

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

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.

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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.

Sounds of the 70s

A group of eager Exonians from 1970-74 visited Cohen Quad on a sunny Saturday as part of their Grand Gaudy (reunion event) at Exeter College.

The site visit followed introductory talks by Deputy Bursar Gez Wells and Hannah Constantine of Alison Brooks Architects on the vision behind the new campus and an explanation of the current stage of construction.

The group was able to walk around the site, moving from the basement to the ground-floor Learning Commons and up to the newly-laid first floor, where construction of the first student bedroom was under way.

All present enjoyed the opportunity to see the site first-hand and to get a sense of the scale of the building. It must also be said that they tackled their steel-capped boots, high-vis jackets, safety glasses, gloves and hard hats with characteristic Exonian jollity!

We are always delighted to take alumni and Friends of Exeter on hard-hat tours of the site; please email development@exeter.ox.ac.uk if you would like to know more.

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Deputy Bursar Gez Wells describes the vision behind Cohen Quadrangle
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Putting on PPE (Note to Oxonians: this is ‘personal protection equipment’, not ‘Politics, Philosophy and Economics’!)
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From a vantage point at the side of the site, architect Hannah Constantine explains the current stage of construction
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Martin (1972, Physics) and Rosy Smith hear about the Learning Commons, which will be right where they are standing
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Andrew Popham (1974, Mathematics) surveying the development of the Learning Commons
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The group give us their seal of approval!