Premier Construction

Wolfson Academic Wing

Written by Roma Publications

Leonard Wolfson Auditorium and Wolfson Academic Wing


credit : Quintin Lake Photography

Wolfson Post Graduate College was founded in 1966 and this year the 50 year anniversary was celebrated with the completion of a New Academic Wing, which connects the

Leonard Wolfson Auditorium completed in June 2013, with the main college.

Architects for both buildings, Berman Guedes Stretton Architects have worked at the college since 2000. Previous work has included two halls or residence, installing of en suites into the 1966 accommodation and new catering and servery facilities. All projects were built by Oxford contractor’s Benfield and Loxley Ltd.

Speaking to Premier Construction magazine, Berman Guedes Stretton Architects Project Director, Marion Brereton said: “The Academic Wing and auditoria building have given the college a new entrance, with porters lodge, 155 seat auditorium, 3 seminar rooms, fellows’ offices and café and group work space linking to the main college at three levels.”

The college’s new entrance is now on axis with the approach road to the college. In addition to expanding the library and its academic accommodation BGS’ were required to design a more striking approach to the college. By placing the ventilation chimney to the auditorium and main entrance to the college on axis with Linton Road, BGS has improved the presentation of the college from the main public approach providing a defining external feature and a visible entrance.

The materials of both the Leonard Wolfson Auditorium and Academic Wing are deeply respectful to the main college and Powell and Moya’s palette of materials and mode of composition; areas of blank walls with both large and small areas of glass, as well as rectangular windows – the larger areas of glass are broken into vertical striped elements made from narrow glazing frames. Cornish blue granite precast banding and panels are in keeping with the weight of the original and the white render provides a contrast to the existing  entrance that Philip Powell described as ‘large expanses of neighboring imperforate wall’, which previously greeted you at the front of the college. These expanses now provide the perfect backdrop to new birch trees within the new quad beyond the new wing.

RIBA judges for the south awards recently described BGS’ ‘massing’  as ‘cleverly measured in terms of adding to, enhancing and embracing the Powell and Moya building and, while being reverential, not being shy nor overwhelmed.’

The group work at the first floor of the Academic Wing provides a study zone that differs fundamentally from the existing library. It offers a shared space for collective studying, group work and informal discussion. At one end there is a sound-proofed media space for 12 people with a large wall-mounted LCD display screen, allowing for group study or presentations.


credit : Quintin Lake Photography

The ground floor café and exhibition space is opened to the public as well being used by college academics, graduates and visitors attending seminars and conferences in the Leonard Wolfson Auditorium.

Since the completion of the Academic Wing, the project has gone on to win two RIBA awards. The project was awarded a RIBA South award and a RIBA Conservation award.

In presenting the project its awards, the judges commented: “The building stuns and delights from the moment you set eyes on it. The materiality and attention to detail are awe-inspiring. This is a building you want to stroke and embrace, to drink in. At every turn the eyes and senses are stimulated. It is a joy to look at, touch and feel and to flow and circulate through. This is a well-considered, balanced, extremely well-mannered addition to a splendid building, using all the contemporary tricks and benefits of the discipline today.”

Commenting on winning the awards, in particular the Conservation award, Marion said: “It is so satisfying because the judges have really appreciated the challenge of extending a listed 20th century building. One cannot relay on the contrasts, which can be architecturally pleasing when inserting modern extensions on adjacent older buildings.”


About the author

Roma Publications

Leave a Comment