9:30am Thursday 12th April 2012
By Reg Little
THE last bridge to be built over one of Oxford city centre’s streets was the iconic Bridge of Sighs.
Now, almost a century after Hertford College connected its quads with the landmark structure, Pembroke College is following suit, with a footbridge set to span Brewer Street from next month.
But the new glass and steel bridge – a key element of Pembroke’s £29m expansion project – will look very different from its cousin over New College Lane.
Pembroke says the scheme, which has involved buying four plots of surrounding land, including a vacant car park and furniture shop, will help regenerate the city’s neglected St Ebbe’s quarter.
Work is under way on a 170-seat multi-purpose theatre, an art gallery, teaching and function rooms, rooms for 116 students and a cafe, set around a new quadrangle.
The college’s size will be increased by more than a quarter in time for the new academic year in October.
The scheme will increase the number of undergraduates living at the college’s main site by more than half, allowing it to house all its second year undergraduates, slashing the number having to rent homes in the city.
The footbridge will allow students and staff to cross Brewer Street between the old and new parts of the college.
It is on a sensitive site, being built over a surviving section of Oxford’s medieval city wall and close to listed buildings.
College bursar John Church said: “Building a bridge in a conservation area was potentially tricky. We wanted something simple, rustic and not imposing. So we came up with the idea of a glass-sided bridge to meet the requirements of the highways department, while addressing the concerns of English Heritage and the city council that the bridge should blend into its surroundings.
“It will allow us to integrate the two college sites, bringing the new site to life.”
Mr Church said the project also provided an opportunity to regenerate a neglected part of the city centre.
He added: “This had become the tatty end of Oxford and not very pleasant. As well as providing the college with modern facilities, it will give something back to the city.”
To fund the development, Pembroke, founded in 1624, launched a fundraising drive called Bridging Centuries, with a target of £17m, two-thirds of which has been raised so far. It has also taken out a £12m bank loan.
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