St. Anne's College, Founders' Gate House, Oxford by HKP&A
Architects; Howell, Killick, Partridge & Amis, 1966.
This architecturally significant building by HKPA has been turned down for listing twice despite the strong cases made to retain it. The Secretary of State was persuaded by evidence that supposedly demonstrated that the Gatehouse architecturally was not of special interest and had ‘no special decoration or craftsmanship’. He also considered that the building did not relate well to adjoining buildings and was not an exceptionally important example of the work of these architects.
I only hope that the college will see the importance of this building and despite this ridiculous decision retain it to enhance its own and architectural reputation of Oxford.
HKP&A had already made a tremendous impact on the lush grounds of this college by threading a beautifully crafted necklace of mainly precast concrete student accommodation weaving its way around the mature trees away from the main entrance and the road.
The Founders’ Gatehouse, as the name implies, called for subtle approach to encapsulate their trademarks of clear separation and articulation of structural elements defining the functions within the buildings. Simultaneously the building displays a formality, reinforced with introduction of local stone in vertical panels, broadly hinting at castellated defensible building with a subtle reference to a ‘mock draw-drawbridge’ by lifting the stone panels on either side of the entrance gate up in the air and resting them on T shaped concrete columns.
This building’s context now is even more critical as it gives an anchor to the rather anonymous new neighbouring building, to the rest of the college site and to the city of Oxford.
It would be a great shame to see this building go as we will not only lose a notable example of continuity of 20th century modern architecture but will drown the area in the ever increasing sea of mediocrity.