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It has been 10 years since the Oxford Castle Quarter was initiated, and eight since it opened. I stopped by recently to see how the development is settling in.

Oxford Castle Quarter - Avenue to Malmaison

Oxford Castle Quarter – Avenue to Malmaison

Briefly, the development incorporated a range of leisure pursuits around and inclusive of Oxford Castle and its defunct prison. The castle was started in 1071 and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. A prison has officially been located on the site since 1230. Malmaison famously settled in the Victorian developed prison, with a typical suite utilising three cells (click here). More information on the history of the site can be found by clicking here.

The development sought to embrace the ruins and the scheduled monument to make it a new destination for the city with eating, sleeping, tourism and culture in the one location.

On my recent visit I was most struck by how nestled together the collection of buildings through the ages are. The key to this I believe is the vegetation.

Tranquil courtyard garden - echoes the Oxbridge typology

Tranquil courtyard garden – reminiscent of the Oxbridge typology

The garden areas form tranquil spaces between the hotel’s accommodation blocks, and their expanses link visually with the grassed mound of the ancient monument: their different maintenance regime an expression of the spatial characters.

The grassed mound of the Scheduled Monument

The grassed mound of the Scheduled Ancient Monument

Plants have been encouraged on both new and old masonry to climb and inhabit. What might have otherwise been ‘dead’ or cold corners have been softened with clusters of planted pots.

Internal corner

Internal corner

External corner

External corner

At the moment the volume of green feels like a perfect balance – not too overgrown to appear unkempt, but wild enough to give the impression of an established development. Age is disregarded by vegetation, and enables the new construction to bind with the old. But perhaps the vegetation is staging a triffid take over…

It has been challenging to find breadth of guidance on the management of vegetation on buildings – although of course much is written of ivy. A good general guidance can be found at Building Conservation here, see under ‘dealing with vegetation‘. If anyone can recommend any further information do post a comment below.