Planning consent has recently been granted to transform an early 19th century thatched barn, in the grounds of Christ Church, into a new visitor centre. Facilities, housed in contemporary extensions on either side of the barn, will include an interpretation centre with new ticketing facilities, café and shop. The college and the 46-acre Meadow that lies to its south both fall within the Oxford Green Belt and are classed as a Grade I Listed Landscape. Christ Church is Oxford’s most visited, paid-for attraction, receiving some 440,000 visitors a year. Around one million people visit the Meadow annually and the new centre will significantly improve their experience.
A comprehensive understanding of the site, its history and landscape significance, was essential in successfully securing planning permission for such a sensitive site. Colvin & Moggridge worked as part of a wider team of experts, led by Purcell Architects, advising on landscape sensitivity and proposed character. The objective was to create a strong landscape context for the new buildings, one that was both entirely progressive and fully in keeping with the existing character of the historic Meadow.
Martin Bhatia comments: The Meadow is a wonderful rural landscape sharply juxtaposed with the urban centre of Oxford. However, the rural character around its urban margins have become eroded and are becoming gentrified with the introduction of ornamental trees and mown lawn. As with so many of our projects, our approach was one of rural restraint where, if successful, it will not be at all clear what is natural and what is ‘designed’, but the new buildings will have a natural fit with their landscape setting and the original landscape character of the Meadow, so valued, becomes strengthened.
The transformation of the barn will significantly improve the experience of visitors to Christ Church and the meadows. Of particular benefit, moving the shop from its current location within the 13th century Chapter House to the new visitor facility will enable the restoration of this magnificent room to its original purpose for meetings, lectures, seminars and concerts.
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