The North Wall Arts Centre was built on the site of a Victorian swimming pool situated on the grounds of St Edward’s Oxford. After over a century of use, this pool became redundant when a new one was built on the school playing fields, and after it had served as a storeroom for a few years, the School Governors decided to develop the pool and adjoining buildings as a new arts centre. This decision was driven by David Christie, the Warden, the composer George Fenton, a Governor and former pupil of the School, and Anthony Kerr-Dineen, the then Director of Cultural Activities at St Edward’s.
The London architects, Haworth Tompkins, were commissioned to design a building which would blend a Victorian listed building with modern architecture, and which would provide a theatre, drama and dance studios, and an art gallery. The arts centre opened in 2007 to the public with its inaugural Summer Festival.
In 2008, The North Wall Arts Centre was awarded both a national award from the Royal Institute of British Architects, presented at the RIBA awards. This was the fourth award received by The North Wall, having previously won a regional award from RIBA, and is an impressive achievement by our architects, Haworth Tompkins, who also won a national award for their new design of the Young Vic Theatre.
Back in March 2008, at the prestigious Civic Trust Annual Awards Ceremony in Newcastle, The North Wall was one of 26 award winners out of over 400 original nominations, and was described by the judges as:
“A delightful transformation of a listed disused Victorian swimming pool into a vibrant arts facility, which reaches out into the local community and provides a venue for dance, music, theatre and the visual arts.”
It was praised for the ingenuity of its versatile theatre, its excellent access, and the appropriate use of timber-cladding to complement the existing red brick and stone walls. The North Wall also received a Certificate from the Oxford Preservation Trust in recognition of its “significant contribution to the conservation and improvement of Oxford’s built environment.”