Lecture series: Mark Emms

14th March 2016

For todays lecture we were kindly visited by teacher, architect and practitioner Mark Emms, whom previously held a lectureship at the University of Manchester but now stands as an external examiner for the School of Architecture at the University of Liverpool.

Emms holds a number of successes and awards including being the site architect for the construction of the Lowry in Salford Quays, which won the Royal Fine Arts Commission Trust Building of the Year award in 2001. One of his most rewarding roles was being the project architect for the refurbishment of Arne Jacobsens’ St. Catherines’ College, Oxford, which now stands as one of the 20th centuries most significant buildings.

St. Catherine’s College


(Birdseye view of the St. Catherine’s College campus)

Image available from: http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/wiki/St_Catherine’s_College,_Oxford


(Frontal facade of St. Catherine’s College)

Image available from: http://www.mimoa.eu/projects/United%20Kingdom/Oxford/St%20Catherine’s%20College/

The main aim for the refurbishment was to put people at the heart of modernism, the college needed updating to appeal for new design and changes in user needs i.e more use of technology and more need for open plan spaces.

Arne Jacobsen, the architect, interior designer, and product designer responsible for the refurbishment used concrete brick; glass; metal; planting; timber; plinth; and glazing; for the exterior facade of the college. The interior materials consisted mainly of concrete columns and beams.

The Interior


(St. Catherine’s College hub interior)

Image available from: http://blog.shawcontractgroup.com/tag/aecom/

Wooden beams can be seen here as an interior design feature placed against modernist design features such as minimal white walls holding paintings, and pieces of furniture also designed by Arne Jacobsen. This large multi-purpose area is one feature of modernism used within the college as it is an open plan space which will experience much human traffic daily, for this reason the space must be comfortable yet practical.


(St. Catherine’s College dining hall)

Image availiable from: https://suburbancitizen.wordpress.com

An image of the St. Catherine’s college dining hall shows minimalist furniture designed by Jacobsen. The architect has featured his own Series 7 chair designed in 1955, a further development of the classic Ant chair. All chairs are veneered in Oak walnut, another feature of modernism for everything is simple and identical. The ceiling is supported by Concrete beams and columns adding to the repetitiveness of the interior. The concrete floor mimics the colour and texture of the upper concrete beams to create a theme.

The Garden


Image available from: http://www.astoft.co.uk/oxford/stcatherine.htm

Jacobsen saw the St. Catherine’s College gardens as an integral part of the refurbishment which has now become a registered garden with the Grade 1 Listing of the buildings (1994). It was important for the gardens to also reflect the classical English style, which has been successful with the use of many tree’s and shrubs.


Image available from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/iqbalaalam/2493522197

Here, Jacobson has juxtaposed yew hedges with brick walls, he wanted to balance nature and construction for a feeling of softness and relaxation when entering the college.

The structure


Image available from: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/architecture/people/academic/mark-emms/index

The structure of the college is constructed using cross-wall, framing and precast, meaning much of the exterior facade and internal staircases were made off-site and then fitted into the building. Cross wall construction allows builders to erect the building rapidly on site and the cross wall is also hidden from view once the precast has been put up.


(Cross section and structure of St. Catherine’s College)

Image available from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/iqbalaalam/5039577568

The structure of the building is reflected throughout and the features are exposed in certain parts such as the inner concrete beams and external metal bars across the glazed windows, mimicking the cross-wall construction.

Existing Sketch of St. Catherine’s College

AJ water exterior.gif

Image available from: http://www.stcatz.ox.ac.uk/College-History

Adjacency Plan of St. Catherine’s College


Image available on: http://users.ox.ac.uk/~iclb0195/Forum/Venue.html


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