Merton College selects Stirling Prize-winning practice through invited competition


Source: Merton College, Oxford

Merton College, seen from the meadow

Stanton Williams has been appointed to design a new academic library for Oxford University’s Merton College after beating 25 other firms in an invited competition for the project.

The practice, which won the Stirling Prize in 2012 for its Sainsbury Laboratory in Cambridge, said work on the project was currently at the “feasibility/concept” stage.

Stanton Williams said the resulting library would be an exemplary sustainable building that was flexible and adaptable for the long term, and capable of supporting the college’s life and vision for generations to come.

As well as niches and corners for private focused study, the new library will provide expansive book-lined reading rooms and collaborative environments. 

Merton College was founded in 1296 and occupies a network of buildings, quadrangles and gardens to the south of High Street in Oxford city centre.


Source: Merton College, Oxford

Merton College Old Library seen from the south-west

The site for the new library is separated from Merton’s main collegiate core by the mature Fellows’ Garden and the historic medieval city wall.

Stanton Williams said the location offered the opportunity to build on the college’s architectural tradition by creating a strong connection between the new premises and the landscape setting, while also celebrating the city wall and orchestrating the transition between the Fellows’ Garden and the quadrangles.

Stanton Williams director Kaori Ohsugi is leading the project for the practice. She said the opportunity to add to Merton’s architectural legacy was an exciting prospect.

“Designing a new principal academic library for Merton College is both a privilege and a responsibility and we look forward to working with the college to deliver an ambitious vision that will support their social and intellectual life for the next 650 years,” she said.


Source: Merton College / Colin Dunn

A bay at Merton College Upper Library

Merton College estates bursar John Gloag said Stanton Williams’ “well-researched and thoughtful approach” to presentations in the competition had been impressive.

“Throughout the process, their ability to listen to and respond to the college’s comments was regarded as a key quality,” he said. ”We are therefore looking forward to working with Kaori and her team to create an exceptional building.”

Stanton Williams said it was currently working with stakeholder groups within Merton College to prepare conceptual designs after completing RIBA stage 1.


Source: Merton College / Colin Dunn

The south wing of Merton College Upper Library