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St Catherine’s College, Oxford University

In St Catherine’s College, the building he called his favourite, Arne Jacobsen merged the new with the old to create a striking modern identity for a forward-looking college. His all-encompassing design included furniture, lampshades, cutlery, gardens – even the species of fish for the pond.  Steensen Varming had already worked with the Danish architect for over two decades and shared his desire for elegant functionality and the value of holistic architecture. The mechanical services for the modern glass and concrete college buildings were meticulously detailed, enabling him to realise a bold vision. Space heating is by way of in-slab heating coils and in the college rooms, recessed convectors integrated into the façade. Two years before completion, at the request of the Bursar, Steensen Varming estimated the cost of heating the new college at £6,000 per annum. This estimate is still accurate today after considering inflation, energy cost increases and campus expansion, and demonstrates the ongoing efficiency and robustness of the original design.


Fifty years on, Steensen Varming advised the college on the sensitive integration of high-performance glazing. The buildings were awarded a Grade I listing in 1993.