Woodstock Apartments

Adrian James Architects

Woodstock Apartments is a new block of flats in north Oxford in a long parade of houses from the Victorian era, through Arts and Crafts, to neo-Georgian with interjections of Brutalism, and more recent infills in a generalised historicist style. The building is sensitive to its context in its respect of the building line, its overall scale, its division into base, first floor and roof. But in its treatment, it is, like all the houses built before 1970, honestly of its time. This is an unabashed 21st century building in its content, its sustainability and its architectural treatment, which adds a bold new chapter to the continuing story of the Woodstock Road.

But there is more to this building than its striking form: it contains seven flats where previously there was one house. If this kind of development were to happen wherever there is a tired, unprepossessing building with a large carbon footprint in north Oxford, say every fifth or sixth house, the density of the area could double, and at the same time the carbon footprint would hugely shrink. (The Apartments’ Operational Energy is rated as ‘Innovative’.) Oxford, like many successful cities, is under pressure to accommodate more housing, and yet not spread outwards despoiling the countryside and creating more commuter belts. This building is a paradigm for how a city can both address its housing problem without undue expansion and become much more sustainable. It could be the start of a programme of radical yet sensitive suburban densification.