Oxford, United Kingdom Designed by Arne Jacobsen


The idea behind St Catherine’s College was to balance innovative and traditional elements on Oxford University’s campus. In 1957, the university’s newest and largest college was to create a unifying building that would set a new standard for college buildings in Oxford and the rest of the world.

The architect Arne Jacobsen was given this task. Today, the result remains as an understated landmark in the history of architecture. “It’s all done with restraint, the minimum number of elements and materials, with everything beautifully executed. It’s extraordinarily refined. Jacobsen showed you don’t need to show off to get recognition,” says Rab Bennetts from Bennetts Architects, one of the  UK’s largest architectural firms.

The buildings follow a strict module of squares and repetitions that follow the tradition of British universities. There is the danger that this might be boring, but it is not the case at all. One of the buildings is clad all the way down, another is open with a brise-soleil, and a third is closed with brick. It draws much inspiration from Mies van der Rohe but with a Scandinavian sensibility.

The Banquet Hall at St Catherine’s College evokes the iconic Oxford halls where three long student tables lead to a diagonal table for the professors and staff. The content and proportions are the same as in the older Oxford colleges, but the furniture is light, bright and modern.