November: Oxford - The best of the old and the best of the new

November: Oxford - The best of the old and the best of the new

With standing room only at this year’s OPT Awards 2018, which are intended to be all about the contribution to Oxford, to its public buildings, our streets and green spaces, I turn my thoughts on to how to share this with you all in a better way.  I’ll have a think about whether we might be able to live stream it in 2019, but that’s for another year.   For now, I can simply share with you that we were delighted to be in one of Oxford’s largest lecture theatres, the newly refurbished Garden Quadrangle Auditorium at St. John’s, which won its own award, and that we did our best to get the widest cross-section of Oxford people that we could fit in, all representing the 40+ entries that we had received.  I suspect the College has seldom, if ever, seen such a broad range of Oxford’s life in one place. If we can but encourage more projects to be submitted from the wider Oxford community then the mix will be even better, as this event is now firmly set in the Oxford calendar, sitting alongside OPTs other major event, Oxford Open Doors.   

I’ll start with the local, and the members of South Oxford’s community who were recognised for the improvements to the Community Centre in Lake Street, alongside our Beckley visitors who received a plaque for their new Village Hall.   City and county planning officers came, able to receive some thanks for the, often, key part they play in getting these projects off the ground.  All the more welcome as I am not sure they often receive praise.  It was great to see them chatting across their teams, junior and senior officers, the Leader and other City Councillors.  Alongside, there were, of course, the business leaders, not least our sponsors, Critchleys, Freeth’s and Carter Jonas, who help make it happen, together with some recognised names in architecture, heritage, locally and nationally, contractors and craftsmen, all at the top of their game, and together producing the most outstanding projects year on year.  The clients, College heads and bursars, librarians and other college team members, people from both the Universities and others were there too as the ones who commission this great work.   The Awards are only as good as the projects we receive, and each year it has been a pleasure to tell the judges what they will be going to see, and the quality of the work that they will find, as they visit all the projects, volunteering their own time, expertise and experience.  

As the Lord Lieutenant and the High Sheriff, Richard Venables, a chartered surveyor himself, handed out two of the Awards, it made me think how lucky OPT is to have our contacts and support, and just how rare it is to be see everyone together in this way across so many walks of the city’s life.  And as I read this week’s Oxford Times with talk of Oxford North, a new Brookes Student village and 4,400 houses in the Green Belt, I wish I could capture the energy in the room, so that we could together design a future Oxford of which we can be proud.  For these people have meant that Oxford can celebrate being home to some of the UKs finest old listed buildings, alongside having one of the highest proportions of new 20thcentury  listed buildings, some designed by those in the front seats of Oxford development. So take a look for yourself.  There is the restoration of the dining halls at Worcester and Magdalen, and new library facilities at The Queens and Brasenose.  Mansfield and St. Peter’s College both have good new buildings or there is the new cool and futuristic Big Data Institute at the Churchill site.   A deep understanding of the Brookes site, has led local architects BGS, who trained at Brookes, to transform the former dreary buildings at Gipsy Lane into a great space, and please take a look at my favourite 4-5 Queen Street designed by architects Wright & Wright, it’s outstanding, a rare good ‘town’ building which puts the rest of the street to shame. And if you say there is no access to any of these then join OPT or look out for the Oxford Open Doors programme next year, we do our best to join the dots between our two great Oxford events.  

Debbie Dance 

Nov 11 18 

728 words