Exeter College Cohen Quad Reaches Completion
Exeter College’s new Cohen Quad reached practical completion in December with the first students moving in to enjoy living and working in the building in January. Alison Brooks Architects’ design is a modern reinvention of the collegiate quadrangle, combining student rooms with teaching and study spaces, organised around landscaped courtyards.
The 6000m2 building has an S-shaped plan creating two internal courtyards, one becoming an amphitheatre space leading down to the new basement level. The learning and social spaces are arranged on the lower floors with the student rooms and fellows accommodation on the upper levels. At each level a central commons area forms the social heart of the building. An historic link to the site’s past use for Ruskin College, with the retained Grade 2 listed façade fronting on to Walton Street.
Structurally, the new basement level was formed with secant piled walls around the perimeter. A concrete frame forms the majority of the superstructure and much of it has been exposed. The large open plan spaces required at the lower levels have been achieved by designing the dividing walls between the rooms as deep beams working in conjunction with the slabs to span clear across the building. At the top of the building the structure switches to steelwork to form the dramatic curved roof, which is clad in patterned stainless steel tiles.
The auditorium is a particularly special space. The frame is formed with a series of closely spaced curved glulam ribs. These are split into inter-dependent sets which rise to a central rooflight, and the ends are joined by steel fin plates bridging the gap.