Oxford Castle, Oxford

This new building in an unusual context is part of a project to convert the historic Oxford Castle Prison into a luxury hotel.  The Castle Prison is a dramatic stone structure located next to an ancient earth mound.  The new building is needed to make up the required number of bedrooms and has to fit in with this unusual location.

Oxford is a city with many enclosing walls.  They surround colleges and define the edges of streets. New Road, the street that Oxford Castle fronts, has a wall that starts as the base of the mound and continues to become the large scale gate post to the adjacent county offices.  This sets the scene for a low building that emerges from the rebuilt boundary wall to step up to a raised garden that provides a foreground for the historic earth mound. The two sides of the building are defined by double order arcaded stone walls that continue the contextual theme.

On one side the stone arcade forms the edge of the forecourt space that leads to the main entrance to the hotel. The directional approach is emphasised with the use of a green oak pergola that defines the path and provides an outdoor eating area for the ground floor restaurant. On the other side of the building the stone arcade flanks the mound and leads the eye to the circular stone tower that forms part of the historic castle complex. Two symmetrical flights of steps, visible at first floor level from the street, lead up to the roof garden from the terrace behind the street wall.  The garden is also accessible from the upper levels of the converted prison.  The intention is to undermine the normal reading of a building by combining planting on the roof, that erodes the structural profile, with elemental wall-like structures that suggest a building emerging from an existing ruin.