Architecture Foundation, London


Art Direction,

Title : Six Proposals for a 21st Century University

Year : 2016

Client : Architecture Foundation, London

Services : Art Direction,

‘Designed in 1966, James Stirling’s Florey Building belongs to a short period during which the European university became subject of bold typological experiment. […] In abandoning the received imagery of the university, each of these schemes sought to acknowledge the unprecedented societal changes that were then transforming the culture of higher education. […] The buildings commissioned by Oxford colleges in the intervening decades have been characterised by a resurgence of conservatism. Institutional anxieties following the events of May ’68 may have represented one immediate cause.

On the fiftieth anniversary of the Florey Building’s design, the Architecture Foundation convened a four day masterclass at Stirling’s building with the aim of exploring how the architecture of the university might rediscover the spirit of formal and social adventure that it so powerfully embodies.

The Oxford that the studios addressed was not, however, the city that stands today but rather the idealised version depicted in an axonometric map dating from 1675. […] We divided Loggan’s map into six, broadly square sectors and assigned one to each of the studios. Each sector presented a meeting between city and landscape, where the studio could develop its project. The methodology bears comparison with that of Roma Interrotta, the speculative reconfiguration of Rome’s Nolli Plan undertaken in 1977 by twelve teams of architects, among them one headed by Stirling.’ (Ellis Woodman, introduction from Six Proposals for a Twenty First Century University)