Residents and architects clash over Jericho's Blavatnik School design

Oxford Mail: Visitors inspect the model of plans for the Blavatnik School   Pictures: OX58226 Antony Moore 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.

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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”.

Comments (6)

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7:51am Thu 4 Apr 13

xjohnx says...

Quible, quible! Nimby, drivel.

Just bear in mind that almost every one of the beautiful buildings in Oxford (and all our other cities) was built without planning permission.

Give them a chance and some time. Bad buildings invariable get pulled down and redeveloped.
Quible, quible! Nimby, drivel. Just bear in mind that almost every one of the beautiful buildings in Oxford (and all our other cities) was built without planning permission. Give them a chance and some time. Bad buildings invariable get pulled down and redeveloped. xjohnx
  • Score: 0

9:15am Thu 4 Apr 13

train passenger says...

I think the good people of Divinity Road would object to the building of a shed in Lower Wolvercote, so there is a fair precedent for not taking their views too seriously.
I think the good people of Divinity Road would object to the building of a shed in Lower Wolvercote, so there is a fair precedent for not taking their views too seriously. train passenger
  • Score: 0

11:23am Thu 4 Apr 13

King Joke says...

Thank Christ these people weren't around when things like the Radcliffe Camera and Tom Tower were built, as they would be been roundly rejected for being 'out of keeping' with the half-timbered hovels in surrounding streets.
Thank Christ these people weren't around when things like the Radcliffe Camera and Tom Tower were built, as they would be been roundly rejected for being 'out of keeping' with the half-timbered hovels in surrounding streets. King Joke
  • Score: 0

1:59pm Thu 4 Apr 13

soft'n'fluffy says...

Tom Towers' roof-base height (approximately 40m) should be the new bench-mark height limit for 21st century central Oxford (subject to various conditions of course)- the Blavatnik building isn't high enough!
Tom Towers' roof-base height (approximately 40m) should be the new bench-mark height limit for 21st century central Oxford (subject to various conditions of course)- the Blavatnik building isn't high enough! soft'n'fluffy
  • Score: 0

2:08pm Thu 4 Apr 13

King Joke says...

As far as I can see a striking new building, some active frontage and a new pedestrian link to the 'Old Radcliffe' bus stop can only be of benefit to this area, but of course there will always be some people who would rather look at a mouldy wall which is what's there at present.
As far as I can see a striking new building, some active frontage and a new pedestrian link to the 'Old Radcliffe' bus stop can only be of benefit to this area, but of course there will always be some people who would rather look at a mouldy wall which is what's there at present. King Joke
  • Score: 0

9:40pm Thu 4 Apr 13

Milkbutnosugarplease says...

From a distance, you wouldn't know that the building is circular. It would appear to be a tall lump. I'm sure the blocks of flats near Port Meadow also sounded good in theory but are now causing protest. I wonder if this is more about architects' willy-waving than a functional building in harmony with its surroundings?
From a distance, you wouldn't know that the building is circular. It would appear to be a tall lump. I'm sure the blocks of flats near Port Meadow also sounded good in theory but are now causing protest. I wonder if this is more about architects' willy-waving than a functional building in harmony with its surroundings? Milkbutnosugarplease
  • Score: 0

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