The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

40 Buildings Saved Florey Building
Florey Building, Queen's College, Oxford Photo Catherine Croft

40 Buildings Saved

36. Florey Building, Queen’s College, Oxford

Status: Listed Grade II*
Architect: James Stirling and Partners
Owners: The Queen's College, Oxford
Location: High Street, Oxford


The Florey Building, a residential student block (built 1968-71), was designed by James Stirling and Partners for Queen’s College, Oxford, and named in honour of Nobel laureate Sir Howard Florey, Provost of Queen’s College from 1962 to 1968.  The building is arranged on five storeys, in an approximately horseshoe-shaped plan which encloses a courtyard or quadrangle. This quadrangle is open on the north-western side so as to provide a direct view of the river with its water meadows, and a distant view towards Magdalen College tower beyond. At this time, the generality of new university accommodation was still uniform ‘shoe boxes’, with only one aspect. Stirling made a bold attempt to deviate from this norm by providing split section rooms with dual aspects. The bedrooms wrap round an open-sided courtyard, with an inward face of raked glazing. The twin towers marking the entrance were described by Stirling, in a written note, as an analogue of a medieval gate tower. The Florey is the last of a trio of university buildings that are without doubt amongst Stirling’s most significant works in England.


The college launched a design competition to upgrade and extend the building which was won by Avanti Architects.


The C20 Society first put the building in for listing in 1999 and after much dialogue and correspondence it was finally listed in 2009.  This was upgraded to Grade II* in 2019 after C20 raised fresh concerns about the planned alterations.


The extension and alteration proposals are currently on hold, and there is concern that the building is not in use.  C20 is hopeful that the revised listing will now encourage the college to change its strategy and develop a brief which will be more compatible with the preservation of the original design.

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