Fleming House

Fleming House

In 2017 the remodelled and extended Westgate shopping centre opened an optimistic new chapter for Oxford city centre. Located a stone’s throw beyond the dreaming spires and the historic High Street, it has shifted the centre of gravity of the city, and left numerous buildings empty. It was in this context that Lincoln College approached fjcstudio (formerly fjmt) and asked how 120-122 High Street might better contribute to its historic environment and how they might provide long-term stewardship for the listed buildings.
120-122 High Street were built in 1866-68 as two separate buildings with distinct uses. They are situated in Oxford’s sensitive Central Conservation Area – one of the largest, most important and complex urban precincts in the country. 121-122 comprised a grand banking hall with opulent accommodation for the bank manager above while 120 was more modest, being let as a music shop and warehouse, with rentable rooms on the upper floors. Both are high-profile Grade II listed buildings and have been described as ‘pleasing additions to the architectural features of Oxford’ and, by Nikolaus Pevsner, as ‘most acceptably Gothic.’

In the past 150 years there have been numerous changes to the original buildings; an original shopfront was lost, the banking hall ceiling hidden, and much of the character of the buildings removed or covered up. Like many high street banks, the premises were under utilised and had fallen into disrepair. The upper floors had deteriorated badly and the buildings were in need of a sustainable use that would be compatible with the heritage buildings, and that would be able to generate enough income to both restore and maintain its delicate fabric.

fjc, assisted by heritage specialist’s Montgomery Architects, undertook the architectural and interior design for the adaptive reuse, refurbishment, and contemporary extension of these important city centre buildings. Various uses were considered and led to a mixed-use approach that included the conversion of the basement, ground, and mezzanine floors into The Ivy Oxford Brasserie, with four contemporary high-end residential apartments on the upper floors. Architect Christine Kwong says that “the transformation of these heritage buildings represents an important part of Oxford’s regeneration and contributes to the City Council’s vision for the Oxford Market Quarter. The provision of a signature restaurant together with a permanent residential presence above reactivates the High Street, restoring a lost part of Oxford’s history.”

Significantly, the project also involved the removal of 1950s stairs from both buildings. This created an opportunity for the addition of a new heritage shopfront on the High Street – in the heart of Oxford’s Central Conservation Area – and a new entrance, grand stair, and lift serving the apartments above. The design for the new shopfront and the location of the grand stair were both based upon careful analysis of historic drawings and photographs. The new shopfront restored the exterior to its original impressive appearance and allowed the two buildings to be read separately as originally intended, while relocating the grand stair – to its original location at the side of the building – improved accessibility, light, and visibility to the ground floor restaurant and provided a valuable connection between the restaurant and the High Street.

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