Following an invited design competition in 2017, award-winning architecture studio AL_A were selected to design a state-of-the-art Undergraduate Centre and Access Centre to house University of Oxford Wadham College’s growing outreach and access programme.
Replacing the outdated Goddard building, the Dr Lee Shau Kee Building (Access Centre) and William Doo Undergraduate Centre support the college’s ongoing commitment to universal accessibility, learning and socialising experiences. The Access Centre provides the college with 20 new student bedrooms, five of which are wheelchair accessible and two assisted accessible, and each with en suite bathrooms and access to shared student kitchens. On the ground floor, modernised administrative areas include meeting rooms and teaching rooms alongside a music room and seminar room equipped with audio-visual facilities. The Undergraduate Centre provides a new junior common room, student cafe and bar, and flexible study and social spaces.
AL_A have designed two identities for the Access Centre and Undergraduate Centre. These two identities have different physical expressions but one common endeavour. They serve to make Wadham a place of vivid intellectual grace and great imagination, a community that goes above and beyond the ordinary in seeking to bring knowledge to the widest possible audiences and to make lasting change.
Founded in 1610 by Nicholas and Dorothy Wadham, Wadham College at the University of Oxford is embedded in the very fabric of the city. It began life as a formal set-piece quad, but over the centuries the formality of the quads and the resulting connectivity was lost. AL_A set out to re-establish the original masterplan and the relationship between the quads – the social centres of the college. A generous stone stairway creates a new gathering space at the centre of the college and a more emphatic connection to the library terrace and between the newly landscaped quads. A covered link between the two buildings further opens visual and physical connections between the quads and the rest of the college; here, the Oxford stair is reinterpreted in a red lacquered timber stairway that connects the two centres. Sensitively set within the historic site, the buildings tread the delicate balance between a welcome familiarity and an exceptional aspirational environment. It lifts the spirit and inspires; it is fresh and modern yet respecting of and rooted in the tradition of the four-hundred-year-old Wadham College.
Wadham College, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PN