Worcester College has been on site in Oxford since the late thirteenth century, though in its current form it was founded in 1714. To mark the College’s 300th anniversary celebrations, architects were invited to design of a new 150-seat lecture theatre expected to accommodate a range of uses including conferences, lectures and student performances. The design proposals needed to integrate sensitive, high-quality architecture within the College’s historic setting and listed gardens. Purcell’s team was one of six that were invited to the second stage of the competition.

Our building planning approach was simple. The three main elements of the building - lecture theatre, seminar block and exercise room - are given a clear visual spacing using wide spaces with glazed ends in which the stairs are located. Our objective in creating these visual links between the front of the building and the rear ensures that the gardens to the rear have a visual and practical function for building users and are tied into the design and experience of the building.

The common areas of the building enjoy the aspect across the cricket field and good exposure to the sun. By raising the building slightly on a plinth, the view across the pitch is enhanced and potential flooding is mitigated. The foyer has a double-height, glazed elevation facing the cricket pitch with solar gain controlled by the combination of a substantial roof overhang and highly specified glass.