The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Click to see full size. Photo © Steve Cadman
Photo © Steve Cadman
Photo © Steve Cadman
Photo © Steve Cadman

100 Buildings 100 Years

1980: Keble College Extension, Oxford

Status: Listed Grade II*
Type: Education
Architect: Ahrends, Burton and Koralek
Location: Keble College, Oxford OX1 3PG

In the 1970s, with modernism prematurely declared dead, architects had to grope a bit to find a new direction. There were nascent high tech, early postmodernism, and stabs at returning to ‘vernacular’ architecture. ABK, and especially their Keble building, offered a way that was none of the above. With its satisfyingly solid, castle-like brick walls, and sort-of quadrangle, it refers to the past, but then it brings in curves and slopes of dark glass.

There’s a bit of James Stirling in its geometries, and its historic/modern combinations, but realised in a distinctive way. It is a warm, embracing building, with its honeyed brick and half-sunk walkways. It is also a nice way of complementing the overwhelming polychromy of Butterfield’s buildings for Keble, while also standing up to them.

All that said, a qualifying note from someone who has lived and worked there: ‘The proportions are extremely poky. The materials aren’t very nice. My room was either pitch dark or uncomfortably bright/boiling hot depending on the position of the sun.’

by Rowan Moore

Listing description

Search 100 Buildings 100 Years

Look for buildings by entering the name of a building or architect or browsing the drop down list. Each entry gives the architect and location, and the icons show listing status. Where available, we have linked to detailed online information about the building, such as the Historic England listing description.

  • Search

  • Or