Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:


© Crown Copyright and database right 2021. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2021. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1379819.pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 08-Mar-2021 at 16:30:29.


Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Oxford (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 52181 05746


SP 5205 OXFORD COWLEY PLACE (West, off) 612/19/10060 The Garden building at At Hilda's College


Residential accommodation for students and graduates. 1968- 70 by Alison and Peter Smithson, job architect Peter Smithson, engineers Ove Arup and Partners. Pre-cast posts and beams, with concrete panels and a timber trellis; entrance front of pale brick, and internal brick walls; flat roof. 51 students' rooms on four floors, with one room for a member of staff, set around a central volume containing the services, separated stair compartment, and a room for the cleaning staff. A covered walkway links the building to the rest of the college, which repeats the timber motif, and gives on to a projecting trunk room store which is part of the original composition. The three main facades overlooking the garden relate to a preserved beech tree and demonstrate the Smithsons' interest in 'layering', with the facade set behind a trellis that runs between each floor level supported on capitals within the concrete frame. Aluminium horizontal sliding windows within timber frames. The entrance front (at the rear if one approaches from the grounds as intended), has a central well of glazing set behind brick ends which continue as enclosures to the walkway. The interior is notable for its use of fine timber and detailing. Timber staircase enclosed by glass and timber partitions. Full-height doors to all the rooms, and fitted cupboards and carefully planned dressing units within them. The Smithsons interpreted their brief as being to construct a building that would be readily recognisable "as a girls' place, as older colleges are so easily seen as men's places". As they also noted, "starting from the fundamental English problem of needing a lot of light, we have provided big windows. But to prevent girls being too 'exposed', there is a separate external screen of timber members, which we hope will cut down the glare, obviate any sense of insecurity and prevent the casual eye from breaking too easily the 'skin' of the building. The timber screen is a kind of 'Vashmak' in untreated oak, pale grey when dry, brown when wet" (quoted, for example, in Vidotto). The mini-dressing rooms was seen as a means of shutting away 'a cascade of washing powder and stockings' while providing sound insulation from the corridor and pantry, while the rest of the room made as flexible as possible with its lack of fitted furniture. This planning has its origins in the Smithsons Appliance House' project of 1958 and more directly in their competition entry for Churchill College, Cambridge, of 1959. The use of beige and brown tones was a reaction to the bright colour of their 1950s exhibition work and, they suggested, provided a 'neutral' background for the occupants' own decorations while better admitting views of the grounds. The Garden Building repeated the square plan with chamfered corners of their Economist Group of buildings (Westminster, listed grade II*), yet is transitional between their major projects of the 1960s and a more gentle approach that considered buildings as a framework for their users' activities, the art of inhabitation 'that informs what they in 1982 termed the Shift'. This increased domesticity without loss of intellectual rigour is parallelled in the work of their friend and fellow founder of Team 10, Aldo van Eyck.

Sources Philip Opher, Twentieth Century Oxford Architecture, Oxford, Heritage Tours, 1995, p.19 Daily Telegraph, 16 October 1968. Alison and Peter smithson, The Shift, London, Architectural Monographs and Academy Editions, 1982, pp.66-7, 91-5. Marco Vidotto, Alison and Peter smithson, Works and Projects, Barcelona, Gustavo Gili, 1997, pp.128-33. Alison and Peter smithson, Signs of Occupancy, Pidgeon Audio Visual, PAV 793, 1979. Alison and Peter smithson, The Pavilion and the Route', in Architectural Design, March 1965, pp.143-6. Helena Webster, ed. Modernism without Rhetoric, London, Academy Editions, 1997, pp.64-71.

Listing NGR: SP5218105746


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Opher, P, Twentieth Century Oxford Architecture, (1995), 19
Smithson, A, Smithson, P, The Shift, (1982), 66-67
Smithson, A, Smithson, P, The Shift, (1982), 91-95
Smithson, A, Smithson, P, Signs of Occupancy, (1979)
Vidotto, M, Smithson, P, Works and Projects, (1997), 128-133
Webster, H, Modernism without Rhetoric, (1997), 64-71
'Daily Telegraph' in 16 October, (1968)
Smithson, A, 'Architectural Design' in The Pavilion And The Route, (1965), 143-146


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 27 Jun 2005
Reference: IOE01/13774/06
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Chris Tresise. Source Historic England Archive
Archive image, may not represent current condition of site.
To view this image please use Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or Edge.

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].