By Alex Leggatt
St John’s College has recently unveiled a new Learning Resource Centre, which was completed at the end of June 2019.
The new building is located next to the church of St. Mary The Less (now the chapel of St John’s College), on the south of the Bailey.
The Centre will operate as a working academic library, doubling the number of study spaces currently within the college library, as well as housing a seminar room and a “state-of-the-art” lecture room.
The Learning Resource Centre will provide storage space for 30,000+ printed books, individual and shared study spaces, and audio-visual and video conferencing equipment for joint teaching with other UK and world-wide programmes.
St John’s has described the Learning Resource Centre as a “21st-century learning space in a century-old College,” and states that the Centre will “enhance [the] College’s reputation as a centre of cutting edge ministerial and lay theological training.”
The Centre will double the number of study spaces currently within the college library
The college described the development and construction of the Learning Resource Centre as a “long process of design and planning to create a building in keeping with its surroundings.”
St John’s has described the Centre as a “21st-century learning space in a century-old College”
Despite this, local Durham residents have complained that the new building does not fit into the existing architecture on the Bailey.
Comments on a Facebook post regarding the new building expressed anger at the university not wanting “every building associated with them to scream who owns it,” rather than it “blend[ing] into the background.” Others labelled the building an “eyesore,” “out of place,” and “unsympathetic” to the surroundings.
Despite this, others were more favourable towards the new Centre. One person commented: “Nothing wrong with old and modern architecture sitting side by side,” while another described the building as a “nice mix of old and new.”
Others labelled the building an “eyesore,” “out of place,” and “unsympathetic” to the surroundings
Northern Bear Building Services began construction work at the start of summer, following an excavation of the site by archaeologists.
In a press release, Northern Bear Building Services said that the building “will offer the only purpose built, sizeable lecture space on the Bailey, suitable also for conferences and events—by other University colleges and departments, Durham Cathedral, and the wider local community.”
The building “will offer the only purpose-built, sizeable lecture space on the Bailey”
Northern Bear Building Services
The excavation, led under the supervision of Niall Hammond of Archaeo-Environment, was completed by site supervisor Natalie Swann and her team from Archaeological Services Durham University in February 2018.
The site was previously occupied by 18th century gardens and a late medieval rectory.
Medieval pottery, animal bones, and a variety of post-medieval garden features and coins were found by the excavation. In the centre of the site, a set of steps leading to a stone well was also found.
Cranmer Hall, a Church of England theological college within St John’s College, said in a statement: “After many years of planning, consultation, negotiation […] we were finally granted planning permission for a new Learning Resource Centre this summer.
Medieval pottery, animal bones, and a variety of post-medieval garden features and coins were found by the excavation
“With Cranmer numbers booming and the evolving University strategy placing clear responsibility for the role of Colleges in providing first class facilities for students, our plan to replace the existing library was first identified in our review of Estates and Buildings as early as 2008.
“We always knew that such an ambitious project would be challenging, both in terms of building in such an important historical location – but also in agreeing a design which would provide both the study and teaching space the College needed.
“So the design had to be practical, yet remain sensitive to its surroundings.”
Photograph: Durham University.