County's seven grand designs in running for award

Bicester Advertiser: BALANCING ACT: Purcell senior architect Alain Torri with David Pendery at the revamped Radcliffe Infirmary Buy this photo » BALANCING ACT: Purcell senior architect Alain Torri with David Pendery at the revamped Radcliffe Infirmary

IT is a brave architect who knocks down 240 years of history in one of Oxford’s most treasured buildings.

But that is what heritage designers Purcell did to the Radcliffe Infirmary in Woodstock Road in a £10m revamp.

It proved so bold and successful that the project, along with six others in Oxfordshire, has been shortlisted for a prestigious regional and national award.

The nominees for the 2013 RIBA South Award by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) have been announced, with seven Oxfordshire projects in the shortlist of 50.

The other Oxfordshire projects are Caswell House wedding venue in Brize Norton, by PCA Architects in Witney; Bishop Edward King Chapel, Ripon College, Cuddesdon, by Niall McLaughlin Architects of London; the Oxford Molecular Pathology Institute, Oxford, by Make Architects of London; the Quincentenary project, Brasenose College, Oxford, by Berman Guedes Stretton; Ruskin College by London-based Penoyre and Prasad; and the West Wing of the Saïd Business School, by Dixon Jones, of London.

The Grade II Listed Radcliffe Infirmary opened in 1770 and was acquired by Oxford University in 2003. It finished as a medical establishment in 2007 but the university had greater plans.

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Kidlington architects Purcell came on board in 2010 with a plan to provide more student accommodation, additional teaching and library facilities for Somerville College and a variety of Humanities Department Buildings.

Senior architect at Purcell, which has a base in Kidlington, Alain Torri said: “The Champagne has not been uncorked yet, there are some fantastic designs on the shortlists. But it is wonderful for us to be nominated.

“It was a real challenge for us as inside we had to knock down 240-years’ worth of history in some cases to modernise the building but also make it exactly how it used to be.

“Humanities currently use the building but it could change hands in 10, 50, 100 years, and it has to be ready for that.

“It was our job to integrate the services to the extent that we could add the technical aspects and mix it with the historic fabric of the building.

“It was very difficult and a balancing act to take this old building and adapt it for the 21st century.”

A spokesman for Oxford-based Berman Guedes Stretton architects, Jon DuCroz, said: “We are absolutely over the moon. We put a lot of hard work and effort into the design so it is always nice to have your work recognised for that.”

The RIBA South Awards recognise good, innovative architecture within the region.

The shortlisted buildings will be assessed by a regional jury and the winners will be announced in June.

On the same night a national award will be given to one of the winners in recognition of architectural excellence on a national platform.

The RIBA awards have been running since 1966 and are highly-coveted in the architectural world.

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