St John's College Oxford

Sir Thomas White Building: one of Historic England’s 20 ‘Intriguing Places’ of 2017

Date 18 December 2017

Alongside a Neolithic trackway in South Yorkshire, Skegness’s Esplanade, and Gasholder No. 13 on London’s Old Kent Road, the Sir Thomas White Building has been named by Historic England as one of 2017’s 20 most intriguing places.

Now Grade II-listed, the Sir Thomas White Building (Tommy White to all in College) was built in 1972–75 to provide the additional accommodation needed due to the growth in student numbers in the 1960s and St John’s desire to offer its students rooms in College for the duration of their studies.

Philip Dowson of Arup Associates, an important post-war practice, won a limited competition in June 1967, responding to an ambitious brief that included lecture rooms, a science library, swimming pool, underground car-parking, dining facilities and a new Senior Common Room, as well as student bedrooms. Plans were scaled down due to rising inflation in the early 1970s and the final plan was for 154 two-room student bed-sits with communal bathrooms and kitchens, common rooms and a porter’s lodge. The current building houses both the Junior Common Room and the College Bar.

The new building won the 1976 Concrete Society Award and was praised for the ‘outstanding quality’ of its concrete frame. Speaking on BBC Radio Oxford, Revd. Professor William Whyte described the Sir Thomas White Building as ‘like a modern reinvention of the traditional Oxford college’. The programme is available on iPlayer here (starting at 24:24).

To find out about all 20 ‘Intriguing Places’, see Historic England’s press release.

Sir Thomas White Building