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!

 

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

Exeter students to move into Cohen Quad in January

Eighty-six Exeter students will move into their brand new College accommodation in Cohen Quad in January 2017. The Quad will welcome its first students at the start of Hilary Term.

The original aim was that the 86 students plus staff and fellows would move into Cohen Quad in October 2016, at the start of Michaelmas Term. The site is constrained and the building and construction process very complex, and construction has taken longer than anticipated. Students are therefore currently being housed at Jury’s Inn, a hotel in north Oxford, which provides a supportive environment for them, with College staff on site every day, a common room established for the students, and free bus passes provided to assist with transport. Some students have recently been able to move into accommodation provided by other colleges, nearer to the centre of Oxford.

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The Quad photographed by Fran Monks in November

The support of students – their academic and welfare needs – have been the College’s priorities throughout this period. To avoid unnecessary additional disruption, the students will continue to stay in either Jury’s Inn or their alternative student accommodation for the remainder of Michaelmas Term. They will move into their new accommodation at Cohen Quad after the Christmas vacation, for the start of Hilary Term.

In October a group of students visited Cohen Quad, all of whom will move into the accommodation in January. They were impressed with the building and they all remain excited to be living there next term and making use of the exceptional facilities that Cohen Quad offers. In the meantime, we’re providing support for all of our students and work continues on site apace.

Exeter JCR President Harry Williams, who is personally affected by the delays, commented, “Of course I was disappointed to hear that the development would not be completed on time, but I am pleased with the way the college have handled the situation so far.”

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Students visiting Cohen Quad in October

Fellows prepare to move in to Cohen Quad

Five of Exeter’s Fellows will move into Cohen Quad later this year. They are excited by the elegant and modern design and also by the Quad’s close proximity to the humanities hub at the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter and the science area.

Professor Philipp Kukura, Exeter’s Fellow in Physical Chemistry, will be among the five. He visited the building site recently and commented: ‘I cannot wait to welcome and teach my first tutorials in this wonderful new space!

‘Cohen Quad will have a transformative influence not only on Exeter College, but on the collegiate University as a whole. As important as the historical buildings are in making Oxford what it is, as critical will it be that the University provides living and teaching space that is suitable for the 21st century and truly competitive on the world stage.

‘I cannot remember visiting a higher education building that felt so futuristic, but so appropriate and inspiring at the same time.’

Professor Kukura’s teaching room will be on the third floor of Cohen Quad, adjacent to other fellows’ rooms and the Senior Common Room.

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A fellow’s teaching room on the third floor of Cohen Quad

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A fellow’s teaching room on the third floor of Cohen Quad

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Architect’s render of a finished teaching room

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Architect’s render of the completed Quad with the fellows’ teaching rooms and SCR, with their floor-to-ceiling windows and sloping roof, visible on the third floor

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