Sir – I read with some consternation that there is a proposal to paint the University student housing near Port Meadow with the intention to reduce the impact these buildings have on the neighbourhood. This plan is entirely misguided. Painting will be an ineffective option on such a mediocre design. I strongly advise against it.
The protests against these buildings were entirely justified and both the University (not colleges who take a responsible approach to their developments) and city council must share the blame for the development outcome.
I understand that the University have said that they have learnt lessons. Let us hope that they will seriously consider the following proposal which I feel, although not cheap, is practicable and widely beneficial. The work entails the construction of two-metre high berms or mounds on the boundary of the allotments topped with semi-mature indigenous trees. This work I suggest be carried out by the city council who have an excellent reputation on tree planting largely due to the legacy of my friend the late John Thompson.
At the same time the buildings themselves should be faced with planting attached to screens the full height of the facades. Their installation would be undertaken by approved specialists whose names can be obtained from practices of the RIBA or Landscape Institute and the cost borne by the University.
On completion, the berms and planting would effectively reduce the visual intrusion of the disagreeable structures on users of the local footpaths and have a long-term benefit on the more distant views across the meadow by intensifying the planted edge at this point on the boundary.
This planting solution will I’m sure enhance the everyday visual experience for the building users and the public at large and go some way to mending the reputation of the buildings’ owners.