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, is 50 years old and Grade II listed.

Hilda Besse’s faceted concrete cladding encapsulates the family of partitions within it. The building contains all of the core college 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.

Purcell has been appointed to completely refurbish the building — to ensure the protection of its heritage and structure. To facilitate the process, temporary buildings are being provided to house the college’s kitchens, dining hall and common room.

Our Oxford studio have developed a sensitive proposal to repair and develop Hilda Besse, enhancing its architectural heritage. Our proposed changes aim to improve the usability of the college, repair materials, reconfigure the first floor kitchen, improve access on all levels and improve toilet provision.

With our in-depth knowledge of twentieth-century structures our work aims to enhance the significance of the Hilda Besse building, enhancing its distinctive architectural qualities whilst ensuring the building’s sustainable future.

Throughout the project we 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 has validated our Stage 3 design, giving us an increased level of certainty as we move into Stage 4, whilst also reducing risk and increasing programme certainty as we move towards implementation of our solution.