Designed in 1971 by the Architect John Partridge, of the Post-War practice, Howell, Killick, Partridge and Amis, The University of Oxford’s Hilda Besse (home to St Anthony's graduates) is a 50 year old and Grade II listed building.

Purcell is currently refurbishing the building which will ensure the protection of its heritage and structure. With our in-depth knowledge of twentieth-century structures, our work aims to enhance the significance of Hilda Besse, enhancing its distinctive architectural qualities whilst ensuring the building’s sustainable future.

Visualisation of the refurbished dining room.

The concrete building marries the signature style of Modernist buildings with the centuries-old Oxford tradition of common rooms and dining halls. The long and elegant dining hall is most notable by its elaborate ceiling and the building contains all of the college's core social spaces, including the dining hall, bar and common rooms (in addition to the college kitchens and maintenance stores).

Partridge designed Hilda Besse as a single entity with all of the services encapsulated within its structure and very little space for increased capacity. Having little refurbishment throughout its lifetime there are several issues with its fabric; the concrete is spalling in several locations, the roof is in poor condition, and the kitchen is in need of replacement.

Our team in Oxford have developed a sensitive proposal to repair and develop the building, enhancing its architectural heritage. Our proposed changes aim to improve the usability of the college, repair materials, reconfigure the first floor kitchen and improve access across all levels. The scheme will enhance Jon Partridge's original and existing building to improve the building's usability.

Hilda Besse is a refined and stylish piece of Post-War architecture, one of the best HKPA ever produced – it’s about as far from brutal, as Brutalism ever got. By analysing the buildings spatial and material qualities and responding to the buildings rhythm and language, Purcell have delivered a sophisticated and innovative conservation project. Our work here demonstrates how we are bringing parity to conservation efforts for the listed buildings of the recent past and making sure they are fit for the next 50 years.

Jon Wright, Twentieth Century Heritage Consultant.

Throughout the project our team have commissioned and managed a series of specialist and intrusive surveys to further understand the construction and establish the existing ceiling voids, penetrations, and floor make-ups. This approach validated our Stage 3 design, giving us an increased level of certainty as the project moved into Stage 4, whilst also reducing risk and increasing programme certainty as we currently implement our solution.

To facilitate the project, temporary buildings are being provided to house the college’s kitchens, dining hall and common room.