University plans for site to be a ‘leading’ school of art

The Oxford Times: The proposed site for the new Ruskin School of Art The proposed site for the new Ruskin School of Art

OXFORD University has unveiled its plans to redevelop a site in East Oxford and turn it into a “world leading” school of art.

The university already uses the site in Bullingdon Road as part of the Ruskin School of Art but says it is no longer fit for purpose.

The Ruskin School of Art is divided between two sites, around one mile apart – a listed building in High Street and the light-industrial building in Bullingdon Road, which houses the workshops and the main sculpture, printmaking and digital multimedia facilities.

In a planning application for the new building, Oxford University said: “It has long been recognised that the school’s current space allocation is not appropriate to support either its present range and volume of activity or its plans for future development.

“Both sites are full to capacity and as such there is no space to accommodate the planned relaunch of the Master of Fine Art, or to provide adequate studio and workshop facilities for undergraduates and students on the DPhil programme, both of which are essential to the School’s academic standing and financial sustainability.

“The introduction of an MFA will bring the Ruskin in line with other leading art schools and will provide an important bridge between the undergraduate and graduate programmes, allowing it to continue to attract the best research students internationally.”

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Before being taken over by the university the building was used as a meat depot in the 1950s and as a warehouse in the 1980s.

The existing buildings on the site will be completely demolished and replaced with a modern building which has been designed to fit in with the surrounding residential area.

City councillor for St Mary’s Craig Simmons said: “The site has been ripe for redevelopment but I need to look at the plans in detail to understand what the issues and concerns may be.”

If the project goes ahead, it will almost double the space available on the site, which will be used for workshops, studios, office space and seminar rooms.

Architects Spratley Studios claim the new building will be “best placed to engage in contemporary culture in whatever form”.

The university says parking at the site will be limited to three spaces for members of staff to encourage students to use public transport or cycle.

University spokesman Matt Pickles said the Ruskin School of Art would continue to be split over the two sites.

A decision on the scheme will be taken by Oxford City Council planning officers at a date yet to be set.

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