Studio 3

Daniel Rosbottom (DRDH), Jan Peter Wingender (Office Winhov), Cathy Hawley (Cathy Hawley Architects), Hugh Strange (Hugh Strange Architects)

Forum Universitatis

The college typology seeks the creation an idealised world within its walls. By and large the traditional model of University buildings in Oxford establishes a hierarchy of accommodation around a sequence of quads, void figures around which student rooms, dining rooms and chapels are arranged, and which generally progress from court to garden. The primary relationships are those that are established between these parts rather than with the city outside. The city’s streets, accordingly, are characterised by a sense of exclusion: walls are seen over to the privileged life within. With its overwhelming inward focus, this inversion of the city, where its streets and lanes are treated as backs, gives the centre of Oxford a distinct character.

If the city recedes then so equally does the landscape. Despite the presence of both the river Cherwell and the river Thames, colleges also turn their backs on the waterways that penetrate the city centre. With a few, more contemporary exceptions, the University’s relationship with the rivers seems incidental.

In counterpoint, the University buildings focussed around Radcliffe Square in the centre of Oxford form an urban ensemble that provides a generous public realm. Here the focus is on the relationship between a series of strong formal and spatial figures, which together create a more open permeable dialogue between University and City. Established over time rather than as a single set piece, they create a delicate balance, where one can simultaneously read the grouping as objects within space, and spaces between objects. Within this complex sequence, the Radcliffe Camera, Sheldonian Theatre, Clarendon Building and Bridge of Sighs are identifiable as distinctive formal pieces which, exceptionally, Hawksmoor’s All Souls College addresses, through the opening up of its principal quad as a three sided, directional composition.

James Stirling’s Florey building similarly raises questions of figure and space, fronts and backs. Intended to create an intensely focused public space, which opens onto the riverscape of the Cherwell and the walk that forms its edge, the building sought to reinterpret the relationship between individual, collective and public life. Ultimately though, such ambitions were rejected by Queen’s College, its sponsor, and the building remains marginal to the experience of the University 

The intention of the studio is to see the Florey Building as a catalyst for a new understanding of what a college might be, the starting point for a new, outwardly oriented and public-spirited urban landscape ensemble which reflects upon the precedent of Radcliffe Square but understands its role in forming an edge that looks back to the spires and domes of the historic centre across the water and mediates the relationship between city and river. While the Florey building, like much of Stirling’s earlier work, might be generally considered as an object building, unconcerned with its relationship to neighbours, our study will consider it in the context of his later work, such as his competition scheme for the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Germany, where the contrast could not be greater.

We will design a series of buildings, which together create a compelling urban composition that incorporates the Florey, focussing on volumes and spaces and the relationships and views through and between them. The idea pays tribute both to Stirling’s scheme for Corrections to Nolli’s Plan, where Stirling re-contextualises his own work, and to the plans submitted by Hawkmoor in 1713 for rebuilding the centre of Oxford around public open space; his ‘Forum Universitatis’.

Proposals will operate within the parameters set up by these various precedents. Working through models, this ensemble will be developed in primarily scenographic terms, as a direct response to both the amphitheatre of the Florey and Pevsner’s reading of the wider city in picturesque terms.

Daniel Rosbottom / Cathy Hawley / Hugh Strange / Jan Peter Wingender



Daniel Rosbottom

Daniel Rosbottom is co-director of DRDH, which he founded in 2000 with David Howarth.  The London-based practice has realised projects internationally, including the new Liibrary and Concert Hall in Bodø, Norway in 2014 and a development of senior citizen's housing in Aarschot, Belgium (designed with de Vylder Vinck Taillieu) in 2016.  Alongside his role in the practice, Daniel is Professor of the Chair of Interiors Buildings Cities at the Technical University Delft, the Netherlands.

Kortrijk Library. Photo courtesy of DRDH Architects.


Jan Peter Wingender

Jan Peter Wingender studied at Eindhoven University of Technology and the Berlage Institute in Amsterdam before founding the Amsterdam-based Office Winhov, with joost Hovenier.  The practice has built extensively in the Netherlands and Switzerland.  Jan Peter has been a lecturer at the Amsterdam University of the Arts since 2010 and published in 2016 the book ‘Brick, An Exacting Material’ as result of his research project.

City Archive Delft. Photo: Stefan Müller.


Cathy Hawley

Cathy is a practicing architect, previously an Associate at muf architecture/art and a Partner in Riches Hawley Mikhail. Throughout her career Cathy has combined practice with academia at institutions including the Cass, the Architectural Association and the University of Kingston; where she leads the MArch Course. Riches Hawley Mikhail were four times Housing Design Award Winners, BD Housing architect of the Year 2009 and their Clay Field project won two RIBA Awards and was mid-listed for the Stirling Prize.

Clay Field. Photo: Nick Kane.


Hugh Strange

Hugh Strange is the founding director of Hugh Strange Architects, a London based practice with a particular focus on small and intensely crafted projects that have a particular resonance with their sites. Completed projects include the Strange House (2010) and the Drawing Matter Architecture Archive (2014). Hugh writes extensively on architecture and is a postgraduate unit master as Kingston University.

Strange House. Photo: David Grandorge.