On Saturday 17 September 2011, alumni and friends of Somerville College celebrated the official opening of its two new accommodation blocks. Designed by Níall McLaughlin Architects, these were the first buildings to open on the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter.
The buildings are situated at the edge of the College’s northern boundary on the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter. There are 68 student bedrooms which means that nearly all undergraduates can live in College throughout their course. This not only saves students from paying high rents for year-round contracts with private landlords, but it also greatly enhances the student experience and feeling of community amongst undergraduates.
The Somerville buildings have won several awards:
- an Excellence in Design Award from the American Institute of Architects in April 2012
- an award from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in June 2012
- Oxford City Council's David Steel Sustainable Building Award in July 2013.
Oxford City Council commended the Somerville project for its careful balance between the on-site heritage and the need for energy efficiency measures to be incorporated into the building. The Council said that these measures – including renewable technologies such as solar thermal energy and ground source heat pumps – contribute to providing a truly sustainable building that respects its historic context and surroundings.
The Principal of Somerville College, Dr Alice Prochaska, said:
Somerville’s students have told me how much they appreciate the quality of their new accommodation blocks – so much so that demand for college accommodation has significantly increased since their opening in 2011. For so many of our students, the environmental impact of the College is as important as the comfort of the facilities – and these two buildings address both those concerns in equal measure.
It has always been important for Somerville to push the boundaries in many fields, and it is wonderful to know that the College is home to cutting-edge, resource-efficient and sustainable technology. I am delighted that the vision, inspiration and hard work of Níall McLaughlin Associations has been recognised in this way.