Christ Church commissioned Purcell Architects to transform the historic thatched barn sitting within the sensitive Christ Church Meadows into a new visitor centre complete with an interpretation area, shop and café. The project incorporates the re-use of the historic barn, enhances the visitor experience at Christ Church, and will enable the Chapter House, which was previously used as a tourist shop, to be restored.
Christ Church has many Grade I and Grade II* Listed buildings and is one of the largest colleges within the University of Oxford. It features a number of architecturally significant buildings including Tom Tower, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and the Picture Gallery, designed by Powell and Moya. Although a working university college and Cathedral Church, the site has become a popular visitor attraction within the city and approximately half a million tourists visit Christ Church annually.
The Christ Church campus sits next to the Grade I listed Meadow inhabited by longhorn cattle. Within the meadow also lies the 19th-century thatched barn, which had been used as a store by the facilities department for many years.
The team recognised the opportunity to reuse the thatched barn and were commissioned to transform and extend it into a new visitor centre.
Using traditional building materials – thatch , slate and stone , Contrasol were appointed to design manufacture and install 150mm Western Red Cedar timber fins, which are fixed to 150mm x 6mm profiled powder coated aluminium side plates, forming a traditional and welcoming aesthetic to the façade. The project team ensured that the extensions sit in harmony with their setting.
The addition of interpretation facilities informs visitors about the links between the meadow , the thatched barn and the institution’s vast heritage.