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Morgan Sindall wins £15m Oxford library revamp

16 Jul 20 The University of Oxford has selected Morgan Sindall Construction for a £15m project to build a home for its first new college in three decades, Reuben College.

The Radcliffe Science Library
The Radcliffe Science Library

Morgan Sindall will renovate, reconfigure and expand the Grade II listed Radcliffe Science Library to become the new college’s Common Room, with areas for study, meetings and events.

The two-level basement will be refurbished to serve as a storage and teaching facility for museum collections.

Morgan Sindall Construction was appointed through the University’s capital projects partner framework, having won a place on all three of the frameworks lots when it was launched in 2019.

Reuben College is supported by an £80m donation from the Reuben Foundation – the Reuben brothers are reckoned the Sunday Times Rich List to be worth £16bn, having made their fortune in metals trading, originally, and later property.

Opened in 1901, the Radcliffe Science Library (RSL) is Oxford’s main teaching and research science library. The three upper floors hold the legal deposit material for all mathematical, physical, engineering and life sciences and medical disciplines. The two basement floors, added in 1975, are used primarily to store museum collections.

Construction and renovation work will take place in the Jackson and Worthington Wings of the RSL; the Abbot’s Kitchen – a chemistry laboratory built in the 1850s; and the west wing of the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory. 

 These buildings are arranged around a courtyard alongside the Grade I listed University Museum of Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museum. The courtyard area will become the public face and front door of the new college.

The refurbishment and reconfiguration of the internal spaces will preserve heritage features, including those within the ornate ceilings, and timber panelling and bookcases.

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This will create modern library facilities, meeting rooms and a new Museums Collections Teaching & Research Centre (CTRC) and accompanying store for the university’s museums. The CTRC will provide storage for university collections, as well as facilities for their display, digitisation and preservation.

Plans for the redevelopment include waterproofing and refurbishment of the two basement levels, which will create an environmentally-controlled dense collection store and conservation laboratory.

Mechanical and electrical services will be replaced throughout.

Facilities to be built specifically for Reuben College students include a new dining hall, common room, study areas, and offices.

Construction work will begin imminently and complete in time for the new academic year in 2021.

James York, area director at Morgan Sindall Construction, said: “The RSL is steeped in history; both the building itself and the invaluable knowledge and records contained within its books, manuscripts and museum collections. Our work will ensure they can be preserved and displayed for years to come, while also serving as an inspiration to the next generation of post-graduate students studying in the first Oxbridge college to be established in three decades.

“We’re very proud to be collaborating with all of the stakeholders involved to ensure the successful delivery of this multi-faceted project; one which holds such significance to both the university’s past, and its future.”

Lionel Tarassenko, president of Reuben College, added: “Morgan Sindall Construction impressed us from the start with their enthusiasm and commitment to the vision underpinning this project. We are delighted to be working with them, and confident that they will deliver our refurbished buildings with 21st century facilities in a way that is sensitive to their historic surroundings.”

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