Alison Brooks Architects completes ‘campus in a building’ for Exeter College in Oxford

London-based practice Alison Brooks Architects has designed a 'campus in a building' for Exeter College in Oxford, England.

Cohen Quad by Alison Brooks Architects

Alison Brooks Architects (ABA), led by Canadian ex-pat Alison Brooks, has delivered the first dedicated social learning space to Oxford University to be integrated within a new collegiate building.

Cohen Quad, the new ‘campus in a building’ for Exeter College, was awarded to ABA through a competition for the project and is Oxford’s first academic and residential quadrangle to be designed by a female architect.

ABA’s design kept the historic Grade II Listed 1913 Ruskin College facade while also plugging the contemporary expansion into it, as Exeter College’s “second” campus located in the city.
Cohen Quad by Alison Brooks Architects

Cohen Quad aims to transform the traditional typology of a four-sided quadrangle into two quads enclosed within an S-shaped building. These two courtyards are located at the north and south ends of the narrow site, with adjacent cloisters that open into Oxford University’s first social learning space, the Learning Commons.

The Cohen Quad project reimagines Oxford College as a modern home for students and teachers. The building’s light-filled spaces aim to create visual connections and facilitate the exchange of ideas both within the spaces as well as with the city.

Cohen Quad by Alison Brooks Architects

“Windows and views in every corner and at every turning make one feel like a secret spectator of the beauty of the surrounding city”, said Dame Frances Cairncross, former Rector of Exeter College.

The £29.5 million project was fully funded through Exeter College’s fundraising program, and was successfully completed in 2020.

The building contains a mix of spaces, such as a double-height café-restaurant, seminar rooms, offices and  facilities like laundry, IT, housekeeping, and prep kitchens. Fitzhugh Auditorium, a 110-seat multi-purpose event space is located at the north-west corner of the building. Cohen Quad also contains the College’s Special Collections Archive which was designed to the British Standard for the storage and exhibition of archival documents.

Cohen Quad by Alison Brooks Architects
The top four floors are dedicated to bed-and-study rooms for a capacity of 90 students while the upper floors are topped with a curved roof covered in anodised stainless steel Rimex shingles.
A material palette of exposed low-cement/high GGBS concrete, limestone, cherry wood, and glulam timber was chosen for the project. Cohen Quad’s first two storeys are clad in Bath and Clipsham Ashlar limestone on the exterior while the interior finishes are exposed concrete, Jura beige limestone, cherry wood, Jatoba flooring and brass ironmongery. The Cloisters and Auditorium are spruce glulam.
Cohen Quad by Alison Brooks Architects
The building was designed for high standards of sustainability with the use of renewable energy and a building management system that monitors automated ventilation and energy consumption. Cohen Quad uses thermal mass, solar thermal panels and air-source heat pumps, and has achieved a 20 per cent improvement on Building Regulations standard for energy consumption and a 40 per cent improvement in thermal performance. The building has achieved a B rating for the UK’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
Cohen Quad by Alison Brooks Architects

Technical Sheet:

Address: Exeter College, Walton St, Oxford OX1 2HG
Completion: 2020
Building Area: 5,500 m2
Architect: Alison Brooks Architects
Client: Exeter College, Oxford
Contractor: Mace
Structural Consultant: Civic
M&E Engineers: Max Fordham
Conservation Architect: Richard Griffiths Architects
Heritage Consultant: Asset Heritage Consultant
Landscape Architects: Dan Pearson Studio
Quantity Surveyor: Capita
Planning Adviser: Turnberry
Lighting Design: Arup Lighting/Alison Brooks Architects
Audio Visual Consultant: Snelling
Fire Engineering Consultant: Buro Happold
Wayfinding: Felix de Pass & Michael Montgomery
Arboriculturist: Sylvia Consultancy
Furniture Supplier: Twentytwentyone