Behind the hoardings: update on University building projects

Are you intrigued by what's going on at Jesus College, the Life and Mind Building or the Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities? Here’s a round up of some building projects currently taking place or recently completed, from noticeable large-scale University projects to smaller works taking place behind the scenes across the collegiate University.

Life and Mind Building

the proposed design for the new Life and Mind Building

Work is progressing well on the Life and Mind Building, after beginning in November 2021 following the demolition of the Tinbergen Building. This is the largest construction project the University has ever undertaken. Once it is completed, it will become the University’s biggest teaching and research facility. It will house the Department of Experimental Psychology and a new Department of

Biology, combining the existing Departments of Plant Sciences and Zoology, and is being delivered under the joint venture with Legal & General. 

The two tower cranes needed for the project have been installed, and contractors are now proceeding with excavations for the basement – some 2,700 lorry-loads of material will ultimately need to be taken away, of which as much as possible will be re-used – and pouring the thick concrete slab the building will rest on.

Begbroke Science Park

Also progressing well is another joint-venture project to build two highly flexible new buildings at Begbroke Science Park – one to be used by University research groups and the other for occupation by the private sector. This will add 12,500m² of new space to the Science Park, almost doubling the total available, and will provide excellent new facilities for research and collaboration. Work on the new buildings will begin soon, and is expected to finish in 2024. 

The University is also making steady progress on its longer-term development aspirations for the area around the Science Park, and a design team led by Hawkins\Brown were appointed in April 2022 after winning an international design competition. They are now creating the masterplan that will guide the area's development into a world-class innovation district, including new research and development space, community facilities, high-quality housing and a public park and nature reserve.

Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities 

In March, the University received planning permission for the Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities. This project will create exceptional facilities in the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter for teaching, research and public engagement, including a theatre and 500-seat concert hall. 

Enabling works are under way on site, with construction expected to begin in October this year and to be completed in 2025. The building will offer superb environmental performance, with PV solar panels providing power and an all-electric design that uses heat pumps rather than boilers for warmth.

Court Place Gardens

The replacement of the graduate housing at Court Place Gardens between Iffley and Rose Hill is moving forward – among the first projects to do so under the University’s £4bn joint venture with Legal & General. Preparatory works around the site are underway, and demolition of the existing 1970s houses will start very soon. The new homes will be highly sustainable, with air-source heat pumps, solar PV panels, wildlife-friendly planting and an integrated sustainable drainage system. There will also be many more of them – the 36 houses currently on site will be replaced with 71 new ones, as well as study bedrooms in the refurbished Mansion House. Work should be finished in time for graduate students to move in ahead of the 2024–25 academic year. 

Global Leadership Centre for Saïd Business School

The conversion of the Old Power Station in Osney into the Saïd Business School’s new Global Leadership Centre began in late 2021. The building originally opened in 1892 and was the city’s first electrical power plant. Demolition and work to strengthen the riverside structure and retain the building’s historic façade are now under way, with completion expected in early 2024. The new centre will support high-level business and leadership education with a range of formal and informal teaching spaces, alongside leisure and dining facilities and hotel-style bedrooms for students. 

Institute of Developmental & Regenerative Medicine (IDRM)

The construction of IDRM on Old Road Campus has recently finished; the building was handed over to its future occupants in February. The IDRM will house around 240 scientists working at the intersection of developmental biology and regenerative medicine. Read more about the new building

Institute for Global Health at Old Road Campus

Planning consent has been received for the new Institute for Global Health at Old Road Campus. This will provide excellent new teaching and research facilities, forming a nexus for the vital work that the University’s scientists carry out all over the world to improve our understanding of diseases such as malaria, TB and typhus as well as related fields like vaccine development.

Balliol College

One of the Master's Field accommodation building set behind a paved entrance way with trees and bikes

by Stuart Bebb

Balliol College’s recently completed Master’s Field Development has won two regional RIBA awards: the RIBA South Award 2022 and RIBA South Project Architect of the Year 2022. 

The Master’s Field Development contains ten accommodation blocks grouped around a pavilion at the edge of Balliol’s sports ground, and was completed in spring 2021. The new buildings allow Balliol to offer undergraduate students accommodation for all years of their course, and provides 60 more rooms for graduate students.

Exeter College

There are two major building projects at Exeter College – one has recently been completed and another is set to launch shortly. 

The recent refurbishment of its lodge provided an important set of improvements. The lodge and main entrance are now fully accessible and more aesthetically pleasing. Internal gates have been installed, allowing Exeter to open its imposing oak door – creating a more welcoming entrance to the college. 

Additionally, Exeter is embarking on a major renovation of its 175-year old library. Accessibility is a major part of the work, with plans to install a lift, step-free entrance and fully accessible water closet. The renovation will also restore features from Sir George Gilbert Scott’s original design, revealing the full height of the neo-Gothic windows. 

Hertford College

Hertford College’s library redevelopment project is due to start in Autumn 2023. The extensive project will include digging out a new basement reading room under the college’s quad, restoring the historic building and creating a roof terrace. 

Jesus College

cheng yu tung building

Jesus College is in the final stages of completing its new Cheng Yu Tung Building, which will open later in the year on Cornmarket Street. The building is the largest physical transformation in the college’s 450-year history, providing new graduate accommodation, state-of-the-art teaching facilities and the latest digital technologies to enrich learning for students, enhance academic research, and expand opportunities for access, outreach and public engagement. It will also be home to a new NHS primary care centre for the city – to be known as the Northgate Health Centre – and retail units.  

Central to the college’s vision for the building is the creation of the Cheng Kar Shun Digital Hub – a new physical and virtual space that aims to bring together the brightest minds and the curious.

Lincoln College

Last year, Lincoln completed a renovation of its Grade II-listed Mitre accommodation building. The development was one of the largest and most complex projects ever undertaken by the College, centring around the modernisation of one of Oxford’s landmark buildings. 

New College

New College’s Gradel Quadrangles project is currently developing a piece of unused land on its Mansfield Road/Savile Road site, set to complete in September 2023. 

The development will provide a state-of-the-art flexible study and teaching workspace, a multi-purpose arts and performance venue and high-quality accommodation to all undergraduates who wish to live on site for the duration of their course. In reconfiguring the site, part of the new building will also house school dining and kitchen facilities and a new assembly hall. 

Find out more by watching videos dedicated to the project on New College’s website

Pembroke College

A project to build nearly 80 new graduate accommodation units will launch at Pembroke College in autumn. An underused utility building was demolished to make way for the new housing, which will bring more graduate students into the Pembroke resident community. 

Queen’s College

This summer, Queen’s College will be building a new Porter’s Lodge, providing a long-awaited level-access entrance directly to the front quad from the High Street. This will be the largest change to the college’s frontage in modern times. 

Rhodes Trust

Rhodes House is in the midst of a two-year redevelopment project to create a world-class convening centre and a home for Rhodes Trust and its partners. It will be a facility for gathering, learning and collaborating – with improved sustainability and accessibility for all. 

The new 300-capacity convening hall is being built beneath the Grade II*-listed Arts and Crafts building, along with new guest accommodation, meeting spaces and offices that will create a tremendous resource for colleagues in the University, the wider Oxford community and beyond. 

Reuben College

As the University’s newest college, established in May 2019, Reuben College is currently undergoing a major programme of building refurbishment. The project will create purpose-designed, flexible and accessible spaces for college life.  

Plans include a refurbishment of the Grade II-listed Radcliffe Science Library, the western wing of the Inorganic Chemistry sub-department and the 160-year-old Abbot’s Kitchen. These buildings will create a new college facility for the college’s postgraduate students.  

St Cross College

This August, renovation work will begin on St Cross College’s West Wing building to change the building façade. The West Wing building was built in 2015/16, but complications arose when the main contractor and the Glass Reinforced Concrete sub-contractor both went into administration.  

St Cross has created a video on the West Wing works, showing the proposal for the new works and explaining the complications from the initial building work. 

St Peter’s College

In 2018, St Peter’s acquired a site directly adjacent to its estate – presenting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enlarge its college site and build affordable student accommodation. The ongoing £15m Castle Hill House development project includes two new accommodation buildings, a courtyard and a new entrance to the college. With plans to open in 2023, the development will transform the feel of St Peter’s College and add 54 student rooms. 

Trinity College’s Levine Building

Prince Charles walking past a crowed, next to the Levine Building

by Ian Wallman

On 12 May, Prince Charles officially opened Trinity College’s Levine Building, a substantial new development set in Trinity’s historic site. The project was the first major upgrade of the college’s academic facilities in more than 50 years and provides world-class facilities for teaching, public outreach and social activity. 

The design is fully accessible and includes 46 student bedrooms, a flexible function room and an information study and community space with a café. One of the features of the Levine Building is its state-of-the-art auditorium, which provides a world-class venue for lectures and performance. 

Additionally, as part of Trinity’s ongoing upgrade to its main site, its historic Broad Street and Stuart Gates have been removed and restored and the Senior Common Room, Kitchens and Dining Hall are now undergoing a major refurbishment and upgrade to make them fully accessible; these are scheduled for completion at Easter 2023. 

Wolfson College

Wolfson is currently working on a major project to decarbonise its Grade II-listed Brutalist main estate. So far, windows have been triple-glazed, new air-source heat pumps have replaced a 50-year-old boiler and a new electricity substation has been installed. Gas will officially switch off at the end of June.