Corpus Christi College, Oxford

Corpus Christi College is located on a constrained site in the south of Oxford. Since its foundation in 1517, architectural development at the College has been constant. The needs of the College have continued to develop in turn, particularly with regard to its library and special collections.

The library was established at the same time as the College, and was probably the largest and best furnished of its kind in Europe. Such was its status that in 1519 the scholar Erasmus noted that it was 'amongst the chief beauties of Britain'. Today, it continues to rank as a world-class collection, yet the library is severely compromised by its lack of space and less than ideal environmental conditions.

In 2014, Turnberry was appointed to provide planning support to deliver a new library building located within the College's historic estate, with a particular focus on housing its internationally significant special collections and archive in a modern, environmentally controlled facility. The scheme, designed by Berman Guedes Stretton Architects, will involve the substantial demolition of a Grade II-listed building and the erection of a larger building that will be physically attached to other Grade I and II*-listed structures. The new library will make use of significant subterranean development. Architecturally, it will engage with, and ultimately defer to, the existing built environment at the College.

As typifies projects within the historic city centre of Oxford, the proposed scheme is set within a challenging planning context. The College occupies a constrained site, bounded by Merton College and Christ Church and by protected medieval battlements. Turnberry devised a comprehensive stakeholder management strategy that provided a narrative for the project, generating understanding and support for the new building.

Turnberry scoped and prepared a robust evidence base in support of the process, preparing a digestible history of the College and its Special Collections and assessing their significance. This work was invaluable in building support with key bodies such as Oxford City Council, English Heritage, neighbouring colleges and national/local stakeholder groups.

Following public consultation exercises, Turnberry submitted applications for planning permission and Listed Building Consent for the project, and both were approved in October 2015.

Images courtesy of Berman Guedes Stretton Architects