Heritage Lab

Oxford is a living heritage lab. The 800-year old University of Oxford is embedded in its centre. The  urban lanscape is dominated by built heritage and tourism plays a key role in the local economy.

The University is responsible for more than 300 buildings and their grounds; these include museums and libraries. Since they are governed by one legal entitiy - The Chancellor and Masters of the University of Oxford - coordinated approaches to heritage challenges can be developed. Its Estates Conservation has well established working relations with Oxford Preservation Trust and the City Council.

The development of the Radcliffe Obeservatory Quarter boldly illustates the commitment and collaborationbetween the University and the City. The history of the site, which occupies ten acres, has been throughly researched before exisiting heritage builidngs were restored using the University's Archives and new buildings were designed.

Rich in heritage, Oxford is a relatively small city that is densely populated and challenged by environmental problems, for example flooding, pollution, traffic, etc. It is also culturally very diverse with about 35% of the city population non-white British from more than 140 countries. It is an ideal Heritage Lab for developing models that can be used in other heritage cities, regardless of size, for example in Beijing with the Forbidden City.


The Radcliffe Observatory site from the air.

The masterplan for development. Images from History of the Site.

An artist's sketch of initial work on the site and showing the 18th-century Tower of the Winds behind the crane.

The 2nd-century BC Tower of the Winds in Athens as recorded by Stuart and Revett in Antiquities of Athens (above and below)


The restored Tower of the Winds today. Known as the Radcliffe Observatory it is now part of Green Templeton College.



Sir John Radcliffe was a dsitinguished medic who died in 1771 and left his estate for medical research. In 1770 his Trustees approved funds for the Radcliffe Infirmary in the centre of Oxford, above, as work commences, and below in the 19th century, and today as restored.



Before work began on redeveloping the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter archaeological excavations revealed that the site had human habitations 4000 years ago.

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