The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Sir Thomas White Building, St John's College, Oxford

40 Buildings Saved

37. Sir Thomas White Building, St John’s College, Oxford

Status: Listed Grade II
Architect: Philip Dowson, Arup Associates
Owners: St John's College
Location: St John's College, St Giles, Oxford


The Sir Thomas White Building was built to provide student accommodation and common rooms for St John’s College. Designed by Philip Dowson of Arup Associates it was built between 1972-5: a series of linked pavilions forming an L-shaped footprint, made from pre-cast concrete with full-height windows. Described by Ken Powell as “one of the outstanding university buildings of the ‘60s”, it has timber window screens, Gordon Russell internal fittings and furnishings, and a Japanese sensibility. Winner of the Concrete Society Award for 1976.


Proposals were announced in 2016 to make internal alterations which would have led to the loss of internal features – including the bookcases, cupboards and window seats designed by Arup Associates and Gordon Russell.


The C20 Society recommended the building for listing to stop these unsympathetic alterations.  It was given a Grade II listing in 2017.


The Sir Thomas White Building remains protected but the C20 Society is hopeful that it will be listed at Grade II* to further protect its internal fabric.  The college has not applied for consent to do any work to the building since listing.

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