St Anne’s College


Assemble have been commissioned by St Anne’s College, University of Oxford to refurbish 10 existing Victorian villas along Bevington Road, that provide undergraduate housing to their first year students.


Carefully looking at each house in turn, the proposed refurbishment will enhance the accommodation, offering facilities befitting St Anne’s College, that are attractive to both students and conference guests, out of term time.

Affectionately referred to as ‘Bev Road’, the houses were originally built as homes for families around 1867-69 and have provided homes for St Anne’s students since 1954. Over the years the interiors have become tired and dated and the facilities below par.

The buildings are currently entered through makeshift infills between the buildings, which are in poor repair, and have a landscape on Bevington Road that does not contribute to the experience of the street, the appearance of the North Oxford Victorian Suburb Conservation Area, or the image of the College.


As a starting point, St Anne’s decided that upgrading the existing fabric of the buildings would be essential to reduce the buildings reliance on fossil fuels. Working carefully with QODA Consulting, a benchmark for fabric upgrades and the mechanical & electrical strategy was defined for the project brief, to include:

  • internally insulating external walls with wood-fibre insulation and improving insulation to floors and roofs;
  • replacing all timber sash windows with new double glazed timber sashes, to match existing;
  • introducing one, large air source heat pump in a new purpose built enclosure, to serve all 10 houses, connected by an ambient loop;
  • introducing a mechanically ventilated heat recovery unit to ensure that the houses are well ventilated;
  • improving air tightness detailing where possible.

By deciding to creatively refurbish and invest in these beautiful buildings, the College have already saved vast amounts of embodied carbon, whilst giving them a new lease of life. 


After exploring a range of strategic design options with the College we developed a strategy that couples a conservation-led refurbishment of the houses with the rationalisation of the ad-hoc existing infills; to create new covered entrances that lead to the individual front doors for each self-contained unit of student accommodation.


In refurbishing nos. 1-10 Bevington Road, the intent is to restore them to their original configuration as self contained, semi-detached dwellings for student use. Further to the new covered entrances between nos.. 1-10, each house will benefit from its own kitchen at ground floor level with a dining table and chairs to celebrate ‘togetherness’ and living collectively.


Our approach for the Bev Road kitchens is to make them feel domestic. The timber joinery will be stained a colour and bespoke elements within each kitchen will give the students a sense of belonging to their college home.

As the ‘heart of a home’, the kitchens will offer a social space for students to gather, cook, eat or study together.


Each kitchen will utilise the chimney breasts for the hob and cooker; creating an efficient alcove for cooking and releasing more counter top space. A storage cabinet will be provided per student, with any additional storage to be shared/negotiated between the household.



The kitchen and bedroom furniture is designed with natural materials, textures and splashes of colours. The design aims to show the hand crafted look and feel, celebrating moments of interaction with the furniture.



Slight variations in colours between houses and across kitchens and rooms will introduce variety and distinguish one house from another.


A total of 82 student rooms is achieved between the houses, which is an additional 10 rooms more than existing.

Nos.. 1-6 Bevington Road will provide 42 x en-suite rooms and nos.. 7-10 will provide 40 x shared bathroom facilities, creating a wide variety of rooms for the College to offer.


The layouts of the 20 different room types, have been carefully considered to allow for each room to have the same or similar features:

  • Risers are introduced within rooms to distribute services and enclose bathrooms.
  • A weathered, dark oak engineered floorboard will line the bedroom floors, intended to further weather and ware through use.
  • A ‘family of furniture’ is introduced to make best use of the available space.
  • Fitted furniture maximises storage where possible and makes best use of the available height.
  • Loose furniture then allows for a degree of flexibility, for students to adapt their space, including a bed, desk, storage tower, desk chair, bedside cabinet and storage boxes beneath the bed, on castors.
  • Colour will be introduced to the bedroom through the furniture. Walls are to be painted white, with a timber panelled door, picture rail and skirting in a natural clear finish.
  • Each bedroom will have a mirror, a cork notice board, and a picture frame, designed with the same joints and details.
  • The Student’s belongings complete the space, personalising the room.


The loose furniture, designed to be light and easy to use and move, adds an element of playfulness to each bedroom. Bold accents of colour are introduced through the desk lino and internal finishes of the drawers. The desk legs are dipped in colourful rubber, following the same principle of the bottom datum as in fitted furniture. The chest of drawers on casters be easily moved and can change the position under the desk. The drawers under the bed allow for more space for storage.


The fitted furniture refers to the Victorian detailing of panelled doors. Datums are created within the room by the skirting and picture rails, dividing the colour of the furniture into two parts.


Assemble have held extensive conversations with the different Stakeholder groups across College, to collate thoughts, aspirations and lessons learnt amongst the interested parties. A tracker was created to document the many comments and to aid College’s decision making process, carefully reviewed and recorded at each RIBA Stage.

Whilst refurbishment of the buildings represents an economically and ecologically sensitive approach, there is a clear ambition that St Anne’s is looking to invest in these beautiful buildings, so as to ensure their longevity and give them a new lease of life.





Ordnance Survey map, 1878

Bevington Road, 1967 (Picture Oxon POX0101451)

Aerial photograph showing the rear elevations of os. 1-10 Bevington Road, 1951 (Britain from Above)

Hartland House entrance gates, 1938 (RIBApix, RIBA72521)