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The Campaign

The H B Allen Centre

A home for Keble graduates and research

The H B Allen Centre is the flagship of the 150th Anniversary Campaign. Our vision was to create a major new home for our growing graduate community and new facilities to support inter-disciplinary research and spin-out activities at the heart of the University. Together, that is what we have achieved.

By bringing all Keble’s graduate students onto one site with top-quality accommodation and exceptional supporting facilities we have developed the potential for an intellectually and socially enriching experience for all in an environment designed to foster research collaboration. Colleges offer graduate students an extra dimension to their engagement with the University: within the The H B Allen Centre Keble Graduates will find the very best that Oxford can offer. With some of the finest libraries, laboratories, museums and collections in the world within walking distance, the new centre could not be better placed to attract the most able students and researchers.

The H B Allen Centre is four minutes’ walk from the main College site. It has space for 230 full-time graduates plus short-stay accommodation for up to 20 part-time graduates, or visiting fellows. There are two large common rooms, a café, a gym, a lecture theatre, laundry facilities and an onsite Porters Lodge open 24 hours a day.

All rooms are ensuite with a double-bed, workspace, sitting area and storage facilities. The majority are organised in flats of between 5 and 8 study-bedrooms, each flat having its own kitchen/dining room. Some are self-contained studio apartments with their own kitchenettes. All rooms are wheelchair accessible.

The story of The H B Allen Centre

The College acquired the site, formerly the Acland private hospital, from the Nuffield Hospital Trust in December 2004 for £10.75 million, the purchase being funded entirely from its own resources. The strategic importance of the site cannot be over-stated. Occupying 0.68 hectares, it is located only 300 metres to the north of the main College. Immediately to the west is the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter (ROQ), a large site between Woodstock Road and Walton Street, that is being developed to become the heart of the University, including the Mathematical Institute, the Blavatnik School of Government, and most recently announced in June 2019 The Stephen A Schwartzman Centre for the Humanities immediately to the east is the Science Triangle, the home of engineering science, computer science, and materials science.

Design

The building scheme was designed by award-winning architect the late Rick Mather and is one of the most exciting and significant Oxford building projects of this century. MICA (formerly RMA) developed a scheme using principles proven at Keble’s main site; the building hugs the perimeter creating a sixth quad for the College. The ingenious landscaping draws a thread that connects the Banbury and Woodstock Roads, allowing level pedestrian access between them and to the communal facilities that open onto the gently varying ground level. Sunken gardens are excavated so that, as with the O’Reilly Theatre in the Sloane Robinson Building, lower levels of accommodation, as well as seminar rooms and research spaces, are filled with natural light. There are other connections to the Butterfield architecture of the main Victorian site. When you visit, see if you can spot the subtle nod to Butterfield’s famous patterned brickwork.

Construction

We broke ground in June 2016, the Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson wielding the ceremonial spade. We have tracked the progress of the project with cameras onsite and the footage is available in our H B Allen Centre building archive.

You can view the demolition of the existing buildings, the excavation of the enormous foundations and basement space including the challenge of holding up Sarah Acland House on piles while excavating underneath, and the full construction process.

The Official Opening set for October 2019 will be a fitting start to the first academic year of full use and our 150th anniversary.

Facilities at The H B Allen Centre

For our graduates:
—230 ensuite rooms for postgraduate students
—3 apartments for officers of the centre, and research groups
—2 graduate common rooms
—administrative offices

For Research:
—600 m² of research/office/teaching/communal space arranged on four floors in the Woodstock Road Building (in the north-west corner of the site).
—1,500 m² of flexible research/office space, all with natural light and views to other parts of the site, located at the lower ground floor level extending across most of the site.

Shared Facilities:
—café with seating for 120 and further seating on adjacent terraces
—gym
—lecture theatre with seating for up to 120
—seminar rooms and a large exhibition/performance space
—24 ensuite rooms for academic visitors
—Porters’ Lodge
—landscaped quad and perimeter grounds
—over 200 bicycle parking slots

The H B Allen Centre provides space for our tenants Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI), and the Oxford Robotics Institute (ORI).

Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI)  is our lead tenant, occupying the flagship building facing west on to the Woodstock Road and taking the majority of the under-quad space for their research and spin-out activities. OSI provides capital and scaling expertise to businesses driven by intellectual property developed in the University’s Mathematical, Physical, Life Sciences Division and Medical Sciences Division, with a core ambition to bring the very best of the University’s scientific research to the market.

The Oxford Robotics Institute, led by Keble Fellow, Professor Paul Newman is developing and applying mobile robotics in a variety of contexts in collaboration with industry and has been resident at the site since April 2014. Leading in one of the most high-profile areas of technological research development, the Institute’s researchers, engineers and students are all driven to change what robots can do for us. Their current interests include machine learning and AI, computer vision, fabrication, multispectral sensing, perception, and systems engineering. Oxbotica, the recently formed spin-out company, is also located on the site. ORI and Oxbotica occupy the George Building on the Banbury Road and a third of the underquad research space. There is a vehicle lift under Sarah Acland House providing vehicle and robot access to the research space from Mickie Lane.

Funding the development

The total cost of the project is £60 million for construction, fit-out and completion. To date the College has raised £38 million in gifts and pledges. £25 million of this sum was a capital grant from The H B Allen Charitable Trust, with further generous support from many other alumni and friends.

This most ambitious addition to the College is named in honour of Miss Heather Barbara Allen, founder of The H B Allen Charitable Trust. Miss Allen, who died in 2005, was a philanthropist with multiple interests. The Trustees thought it appropriate to make a landmark grant that will stand as a fitting and enduring memorial to her philanthropy.

“I am delighted to have identified a project at my old College which has the potential to provide the best possible experience for graduate students coming to the University and to add world-class facilities for accommodation and research to complement those on the existing Keble site.”
—Mr Peter Shone, a Trustee of The H B Allen Charitable Trust

There is now a portrait of Miss Allen hanging in Hall alongside portraits of other major benefactors to the College. She is also honoured in the naming of ‘Mickie Lane,’ the pedestrian / cycle way which forms the northern boundary of the site with St Anne’s College. Disliking her given names of Heather and Barbara, Miss Allen always went by her nickname Mickie.

Having generated over 60% of the construction cost from philanthropic sources, the College has arranged long-term fixed-rate debt funding, the cost of which will be fully serviced out of the surplus cash flow of the completed project. Of course we continue to welcome further donations to maximise the philanthropic contribution to the venture so that some of the future revenue streams can be devoted to supporting the academic aims of the College.

If you would like to learn more about The H B Allen Centre or would like to visit, please get in touch.