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Florey Building at the Queen's College, with Attached Walls and Abutments

A Grade II Listed Building in Oxford, Oxfordshire

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Latitude: 51.7507 / 51°45'2"N

Longitude: -1.2431 / 1°14'35"W

OS Eastings: 452345

OS Northings: 206051

OS Grid: SP523060

Mapcode National: GBR 8Z4.BHC

Mapcode Global: VHCXV.D8N7

Entry Name: Florey Building at the Queen's College, with Attached Walls and Abutments

Listing Date: 12 March 2009

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1393211

English Heritage Legacy ID: 497375

Location: Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX4

County: Oxfordshire

District: Oxford

Town: Oxford

Electoral Ward/Division: St Clement's

Built-Up Area: Oxford

Traditional County: Oxfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire

Church of England Parish: Oxford St Clement

Church of England Diocese: Oxford

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Listing Text


612/10/10050 (North side)
12-MAR-09 Florey Building at The Queen's College
, with attached walls and abutments

Residential student block for Queen's College on a detached site. Designed 1966-7, built 1968-71 by James Stirling and Partners, Roy Cameron associate; Felix Samuely and Partners engineers.

MATERIALS: Reinforced concrete structure clad in Lancashire red brick with tile to upper levels, the latter set in panels, with patent glazing overlooking the river. The splayed concrete columns and beams form a cloister to the raised ground floor courtyard.

EXTERIOR: Irregular semi-circular plan set on raised brick plinth on riverside, which incorporates breakfast room and ramps. Service rooms and corridors are placed on the outside of the building with staircases at either end, while 77 study bedrooms are placed on the inside overlooking a courtyard, with double-height, split level studios on the topmost floor, which is of double height. Four storeys over near-open raised ground floor, with basement on river side. Each upper level projects forward a stair's width (about a metre) further towards the river than the last. At one end of the semi-circle on the lowest level is the vestibule leading to the breakfast room, which is served by a basement kitchen; at the other is a warden's flat. On the landward side the ground floor is screened by the exposed columns and by walling, but is otherwise open, with bicycle storage and a central glazed concierge's lodge. On the centre of this facade is a double tower housing lifts, linked to the main block by glazed lobbies.

The external features are a product of the materials and plan. The angled concrete frame is exposed externally on the first and ground floors, forming a visual counterbalance to the projecting storeys above. Narrow, horizontal windows to the corridors, with similar but taller windows to the rear of the studios, angled windows to the stairs at either end of the block and full-height patent aluminium glazing to the river frontage, those to the three intermediate floors sloping, as is the clerestory glazing to the breakfast room, which incorporates pivoting opening lights. All the study bedroom windows incorporate Venetian blinds and ventilation louvres, and there are window-cleaning ladders built in to every floor. The lift lobbies reduce in length as one ascends the building because of the stepped out upper floors; full-height glazing with central panel of pivoting opening lights forming a transom, and the top floor has a glazed roof. The windows to the warden's flat renewed in uPVC. The porter's lodge is fully glazed. Slender aluminium gates deny access to the uninvited. The roof of the kitchen forms a courtyard feature of brick and tile with nine steps and a ventilator which incorporates a weathervane.

The future of the area was uncertain when the Florey Building was erected. Stirling therefore decided to turn the building's back on the immediate environment and overlook the water meadows and the city beyond. The plan can be dismissed as a reworking of ideas already explored by Stirling at his History Faculty building in Cambridge, without the justification of a major space for the semi-circle to embrace, were it not for the genuine problems seen with the site to the south-east. It is also the most geometric of his 'red brick' buildings, suggesting that it should be seen as intermediary between his earlier work and the post-modern classicism he was subsequently to adopt. It can perhaps be best understood as a modern reworking of the traditional Oxford quadrangle, but open towards the river; this interpretation not only justifies the plan but also explains the cloistered ground-floor walk in which the structure supporting the building is clearly expressed. It thus has a significant place in Stirling's limited oeuvre of the late 1960s. The red tile and concrete structure however has a strength not found in later Stirling work.

INTERIOR: Interiors have cork flooring throughout. The staircases have green steel balustrades - a characteristic Stirling device. Breakfast room supported by six mushroom piers. Internally some rooms on the angles of the curve have angled piers, forming buttresses, within them; all have fitted cupboards and sinks. The top floor of double-height studios have internal timber stairs, with steel balustrade and handrail, leading to bed space.

HISTORY: The Queen's College had an awkward site overlooking the river, but which backed on to derelict properties which in the mid 1960s were being targeted for redevelopment. It was thus alienated from the rest of the college. Stirling was chosen on the basis of his highly acclaimed Engineering Building at Leicester University (designed with James Gowan and already listed Grade II*) and History Faculty at Cambridge (Grade II). His brief was to provide study bedrooms, and a breakfast room, for the students would take their other meals in the main College buildings. His solution was a dramatic horseshoe-shaped building which turned its back on the derelict land behind, and provided a vertiginous glass facade overlooking the historic city across the river. It is clearly in the spirit of the History Faculty in its broadly symmetrical plan, but comprises a series of small rooms, with an open courtyard in the equivalent space to the library in the Cambridge building. Its overall shape and structure, however, is more complex and more sophisticated than the History Faculty, in the way that it is swelled out on cantilevers on the landward side above an open ground-floor walkway. The paired lift towers at its entrance anticipate the formal, symmetrical entrance at the Sackler Museum at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the United States (1979-84), and the glazed links connecting these to the main building at higher levels are very reminiscent of the principal space in his extension for Olivetti at Haslemere (1972-4), already listed grade II*. The Florey Building, as the last of his major buildings of the 1960s, and the last of his surviving stand-alone buildings in England to be completed before his death, thus occupies a crucial place in the development of the man who is today internationally considered to be among the most significant architects to emerge in the post-war era.

SOURCES: Architectural Design (October 1968), pp.475-8; Architectural Review (November 1972), pp.260-7; Domus (November 1972), pp.12-20; Construction Moderne (September-October 1972), pp.31-42; James Stirling, Buildings and Projects 1950-74 (1975), pp.114-25

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: The Florey Building is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* It is one of the most significant works of Sir James Stirling, one of the country's leading post-war architects, and is characteristic of his style;
* It is a distinctive example of a new approach to residential architecture in a college context, from a period when the universities were at the forefront of architectural patronage;
* Within the context of Oxford, it takes forward the long history of exceptional college building, not least in its innovative plan-form.

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