PEOPLE working there joked that it offered the best views of Oxford – because they were in the only place it could not be seen.

So there were few tears when the demolition of Oxford University’s Hans Krebs Tower started on Monday.

After being the home of the biochemistry department for some 50 years, the seven-storey building is due to make way for a replacement.

But although widely thought an eyesore on the city skyline, pro-vice-chancellor Professor William James said it had played host to some significant scientific discoveries.

He said: “I worked there in the 1980s, like lots of people in the department, and some good science was done there.

“Key work experiments were done there by Sir Paul Nurse as part of his research into cancer genes and cell replication.

“And Edwin Southern, who I think should have won a Nobel Prize, also developed his DNA micro-array technology [which allows scientists to examine genes] in the tower.”

But the building also possessed another rare feature, he said.

“It used a paternoster lift, because the building was very narrow but lots of people needed to get up and down the seven floors.”

Paternoster lifts are a set of lift cubicles which rotate on a pulley system up and down the building. For a seven-floor tower, 14 lifts are used, all constantly moving.

“You could get around very quickly,” Prof James said, “but when it was decided, in about 1990 I think, that they were not safe, they replaced it with an ordinary lift system. You could get about two people in each paternoster lift. It was a bit alarming on first try because you are just jumping into this small moving box.

“Postgraduates and second years used to have great fun when students first came there, by telling them that the boxes were fixed in position and went upside down as they went round the top.

“They would get in one going up on the seventh floor then do a handstand inside so that when it came back down through the seventh floor it looked like they’d been flipped round.”

The department left the tower in 2008 and moved to other laboratories. The new facility to be built on the site will house researchers of physiology, chemistry, biochemistry and clinical neurosciences in new facilities.

Prof James added: “We are pleased that we can replace it with a modern, state-of-the-art building which will allow experts in the biosciences in Oxford to carry out new and exciting research.”

Demolition is expected to continue until November.

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