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Residents and architects clash over Jericho's Blavatnik School design
Buy this photo » Visitors inspect the model of plans for the Blavatnik School Pictures: OX58226 Antony Moore
Architects behind the controversial Blavatnik School of Government say they have want it to be seen and loved across Oxford.
But Jericho residents have described the Walton Street structure as something they “wouldn’t wish on Milton Keynes”.
Plans have already been submitted by Oxford University but a public meeting was held in St Barnabas church last week to explain the building’s design.
Its height has already proved controversial and the fact that it is three metres taller than Carfax Tower – and 22m high in total – has been a frequent criticism. John O’Mara, from Swiss-based architectural firm Herzog & De Meuron, said: “It is apparent that this building is visible from views like Raleigh Park but we wanted to engage with that visibility.
“If we were to go over Carfax, which we do, we wanted to go over it with an identity, with a form. We expect this building to be seen, we want it to be seen and we want it to be appreciated.”
The architects carefully studied views from Raleigh Park in North Hinksey, Boars Hill and Port Meadow and in all instances the top of the building can be seen in the distance. It has been recessed to prevent it from overwhelming what the architects describe as the “civic scale” of Walton Street.
But residents in both Divinity Road and London Place have objected to the plans because they fear the impact it would have on the views from South Park.
David Colbeck, who lives in London Place, said: “We strongly urge that the height of this development is reduced to the height of Carfax Tower, which we understand is the norm for developments in the city.”
During the heated meeting, attended by around 100 people, one person told the architects: “Compared to this tall stack of week-old cow pats, the Said Business School and Seacourt Tower look like the Taj Mahal.
“This does not fit in Oxford. It might fit somewhere but I wouldn’t wish it on Milton Keynes.”
And David Freud, owner of the bar next door, said: “How do you expect to get planning permission when this building appears to breach so many policies?”
Mr O’Mara said the circular form of building is “dynamic”, adding that if it was going to go over the Carfax height, he would not have wanted to do so with a rectangular building.
The school is currently based in temporary accommodation in Merton Street.
Chief operating officer Calum Miller said it was eager to be a “good neighbour”.
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