Founded in the 16th century, the Library at Corpus Christi College is of national architectural and historical significance, featuring works by Galileo, Erasmus and the Venerable Bede, among others. However, it was challenged by limited space and not able to meet the current needs of students and staff at a modern, world-class university.
Designed to increase the number of study spaces, improve access and safeguard the College’s special collections, the Spencer Building extends and redevelops the Library, while respecting the heritage of the site and buildings.
Detailed to Passivhaus certification standards, the project is also a pioneering exemplar of sustainability, one of the first buildings in the Oxford University estate to meet these rigorous criteria.
With extensive experience designing buildings with similar complexities, Wright & Wright was able to approach this project with an innate understanding of its challenges and opportunities. Working closely with the College to support their ambitions, the client brief was fitted into a greatly reduced area with a project cost of less than half of a previous proposal’s. Despite being in the highly sensitive Oriel Square Conservation Area, the proposal was granted planning permission.
We are delighted to have worked with Wright & Wright on the design of our new Special Collections Centre. The creative conversation between new and old buildings that is embedded in their designs and the adoption of Passivhaus standards exemplify the blending of tradition and modernity that characterises the College.
Professor Helen Moore
President, Corpus Christi College Oxford
The building is designed to meet the stringent requirements of Passivhaus in order to provide an ultra-low energy building that requires very little space heating by providing high levels of insulation, omitting thermal bridges, specifying high performance triple-glazed windows with insulated frames, ensuring airtight building fabric and designing a mechanical and ventilation system with highly efficient heat recovery.
The building will be fully accessible with a passenger lift connecting all levels. A new opening into the College's 16th century library at first floor means this space becomes fully accessible for the first time.
The collection at Corpus Christi College is so impressive that it is regularly visited by scholars from around the world and is likely the fifth biggest collection of early printed books in Oxford comprising of at least 20,000 titles including those by Galileo, Erasmus and the Venerable Bede, among others.
Joanna Snelling, the College's librarian, described the collection as 'a Library of Libraries'. Beyond the worth of individual volumes is the significance of their place in unique combination reflecting the tastes and reading habits of their donors.