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Master's Field Development

by Niall McLaughlin Architects

Client Balliol College, Oxford

Awards RIBA South Award 2022, RIBA South Project Architect of the Year 2022 and RIBA National Award 2022 (sponsored by Forterra)

© Niall McLaughlin Architects

Masters Field Development is a significant addition to the edge of the urban centre of Oxford, comprising 228 bedrooms along roughly 200m of streetscape in total. It also represents the development of a sophisticated visual and constructional language that allows for the degree of repetition and subtle variation that is both necessary and appropriate for a single building project of this size and in this context.

A closely related family of eight low-rise brickwork buildings is split into two groups of four by a single-storey, timber-clad cricket pavilion. Varying slightly in plan shape, proportion and orientation, the residential blocks are arranged with just enough informality to negotiate a curving streetscape, a fragment of existing pitched roof housing, and a street corner to the south end of the site. The gaps between the buildings create visual porosity between the street and the cricket pitch, and occasionally frame views of mature trees. The stacked timber roof inside the pavilion is a compelling set piece, and the yet-to-be-built lecture theatre at the bend in the road will add another layer of wider communal life and compositional difference.

The elevational composition of the blocks is very considered and refined – the depth of the stepped brickwork fins means that the building changes its character as one moves around it and the 45° piers at the corners do the same, shifting between thick and thin depending on where you stand. Internally, there are 14 types of bedroom, which are arranged in clusters around shared social spaces that are robust enough to accommodate inhabitation by successive generations of students.

Repetition and variation also underpin the constructional approach, with CLT for load-bearing structure and bespoke brick-faced precast piers and lintels for the self-supporting façade. The very careful detailing, high quality materials and controlled execution create a real sense of craft rather than standardised prefabrication, and the building feels suitably robust given its enduring context.

The whole ensemble is the result of a very well-judged exercise that makes an important contribution to the life of the college and the built environment at large.

Internal area 8,173.00 m²

Contractor BAM Construction Ltd

Project Management Bidwells

Environmental / M&E Engineers Harley Haddow

Structural Engineers Smith and Wallwork Engineers

Quantity Surveyor / Cost Consultant Gleeds

Planning Consultant Turnberry Planning

Civil Engineer Smith and Wallwork Engineers

Landscape Designers Bidwells Urban Design Studio

© Nick Kane
© Nick Kane
© Nick Kane
© Nick Kane
© Niall McLaughlin Architects
© Niall McLaughlin Architects
© Niall McLaughlin Architects
© Niall McLaughlin Architects
© Niall McLaughlin Architects
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