Studio 1

Marie José van Hee (MJosé Van Hee Architecten), Peter St John (Caruso St John), Stephen Taylor (Stephen Taylor Architects)


From its vantage point in the Florey building, and aspect over the clustering mediaeval college courts of Oxford across the river, the studio will be an experimental embrace of all the vigourous formal qualities of mediaeval, high English Renaissance and 1960s formalist architecture. In a different approach to the masterclasses of last year, we will work back from the form towards the city.

Before he was sidelined by the calm centralising of imported classicism, Nicholas Hawksmoor invented a restless, up-in-the-sky architecture of towers, chimneys and spires, whose multiple parts and lively spatial arrangements fused the vigour of the gothic with the civilising order of the Enlightenment. Hawksmoor's North Quadrangle at All Soul's College for example, with its extraordinary screen of developing towers around an oval green, is a more public and celebratory version of the university yard than the private cloister-like courts of the mediaeval colleges. James Stirling's university buildings from the late 1950s and 60s have in common with Hawksmoor an upward energy and shapeliness, figures in the landscape breaking the horizon rather than following it. Both architects were making something new through the transformation of associated form. In the case of the Florey building, there are gate towers, bridges, a cloister and quad, and a vertical emphasis to the form that recalls the diminishing profile of the buttress of a gothic cathedral.

The studio will work primarily with models, starting with small ones and developing into bigger ones. We will begin with a day looking at the mediaeval centre of Oxford, followed by a second day, where students working in pairs make a sketch model of a selected ensemble from the town. Working individually or in pairs, the studio will then make a sketch proposition for new university buildings along the river, in the water meadow of the Cherwell, starting at Magdalen Bridge and facing the Florey. Like the building bridges and island gardens of the Chateau Chenonceaux on the Loire, the studio's work will form an archipelago of connected islands along the river. Fronts with their gardens could form a version of the Backs in Cambridge. There should be a theatrical, public quality of display that connects all the projects. University students will be employed to dress as nymphs and fauns, play music in the gardens and swim in the water meadow between the buildings.

The conversation will be mainly about form and space, referring to the examples we will gather together. The results will be primarily sculptural and hand-made. A common theme should be the "space-field" * made by the upper body of the building, so that each has a profile that fits well within its imaginary context.

* The Space Between, "Oxford Walks" Alison and Peter Smithson


Marie José van Hee

Marie-José Van Hee studied architecture at the Higher Institute of Architecture Sint-Lucas in Ghent and formed her own architecture studio in Ghent in 1976.  Completed projects include the Fashion Museum in Antwerp (1999); House at Zuidzande (2006); and the Ghent Market Hall (2012) designed with Robbrecht & Daem architecten, with whom she shares an atelier.  As a professor in architectural design, Marie-José has long been connected with the Architecture Department of Sint-Lucas School of Architecture in Ghent and was visiting professor at the ETH Zurich in 2017.  

Torhout House Practice. Photo: Crispijn Van Sas.


Peter St John

Peter St John began his architectural studies at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, completing them at the Architectural Association in 1984. He worked for Richard Rogers, Florian Beigel, Dixon Jones, and Arup Associates prior to establishing his own practice with Adam Caruso.  Caruso St John has gone on to establish a global reputation for projects including The New Art Gallery, Walsall (2000), Nottingham Contemporary (2010) and the Stirling Prize-winning Newport Street Gallery (2015).  Peter is a visiting professor at London Metropolitan University.

Newport Street Gallery. Photo: Alex Upton.


Stephen Taylor

Stephen Taylor is the founding Director of Stephen Taylor Architects, a London-based practice, with a particular focus on housing. Stephen has lectured extensively on architecture and urban design throughout Europe and is currently a postgraduate unit master at London Metropolitan University where he has taught since 2007. A Quart Verlag publication on the work of Stephen Taylor Architects was published in 2106.

Shatwell Farm. Photo courtesy of Stephen Taylor Architects.