Text description provided by the architects. Radley College is situated between Kennington and Abingdon on the eastern edge of Radley Village and commands views across South-West Oxfordshire. Established in 1847 by the Rev. William Sewell, it now accommodates up to 684 boys.
This project represents a significant milestone for Radley College as it addresses a number of important operational issues that have existed for some time. In addition, the College identified a number of space needs for both teaching and social accommodation for the school. Ten new teaching classrooms were required to enable the subjects of history and politics to be taught ‘under one roof’. This addressed the shortages of dedicated classrooms, where previously multiple use classrooms were relied upon leading to significant timetabling problems.
Radley College has a prolific art department whose expansion needed to include a new gallery (The Sewell Gallery) and additional space was required to provide secure display and storage of the boys’ artwork during and after assessment. The secure gallery also enables high profile and important artists to show their work.
A new social space was required as a much-needed place for the boys to relax and meet outside of the confines of their boarding houses or ‘socials’, where space of this nature is limited. The new social space will also be a place where College staff can receive parents of the boys and where parents can meet with their children in both open and private environments. The café will offer users light refreshments during the day and at times when the main dining facility is not accessible.
As well as addressing a number of important issues for the College, the project also represented a unique opportunity to improve the environment of the Clocktower Square and realise its potential as a civic space in the heart of the College campus.
Given the importance of the Clocktower Square, the development deliberately placed the civic activities to engage with this space. The elevation of this part of the new proposal is colonnaded in brickwork and is proportioned so as to moderate the scale difference between the monumental Rackets Court and the more domestically scaled Old Fives Court building.
The new development places the classrooms as a linear building over two storeys in the same orientation as the Rackets Court. The lower storey is a brick colonnade, which offers a new covered entrance route, taking pedestrians away from the existing roadside route that swings around the front elevation of the Rackets Court.
The end elevation of the classroom building is deliberately played down to allow space for Artwork and to avoid competing with the more ornate frontage to the Rackets Court. The roofs of the classrooms are deliberately pitched so as not to conflict with the roof of the Rackets Court, and as a result they offer a sculpted space internally to the upper classrooms. They are capped with light and ventilation stacks, which will drive the passive ventilation systems to the two-storey building.