The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Click to see full size. Photo © Elain Harwood
Photo © Elain Harwood

100 Buildings 100 Years

1983: Sainsbury Building, Worcester College

Type: Education
Architect: Richard MacCormac
Location: Worcester College, Walton Street, Oxford, OX1 2HB

In my third year as an architecture student we were taken to visit the Sainsbury Building, then under construction at Worcester College, Oxford, with the promise of seeing something quite new. The building was a year away from completion, but it was already evident that the promise would be fulfilled.

When finished, it represented the ‘Romantic Pragmatism’ then being promoted by the Architectural Review: it was formal and symmetrical in its complex composition and layout, but detailed to suggest the vernacular architecture of the Cotswolds and crafted internally like an Arts and Crafts building. It was set around a lake, and engaged fully with its romantic site. Jonathan Glancey later noted that it had been designed to age gracefully, a novelty at the time.

The project was the first of a series of influential buildings for Oxbridge colleges by MacCormac and his subsequent practice, MJP Architects, which have continued to this day.

by Timothy Brittain-Catlin

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