St John's Gate, Oxford

Garden Gate, at St John’s College, Oxford, was commissioned for the New Agricultural Building, designed and built by the architect Richard McCormack. The commissioning agent was Vivienne Lovell of Public Arts Commissioning Agency. Richard Quinnel supervised construction at Rowhurst Forge.

The gate was to be positioned on an axis central to the building, and located in an existing mediaeval wall. This would create a private entrance and exit between the Fellows’ Garden and the lower part of the newly built complex, giving direct access to the lecture theatre and the College Museum. Every St John’s College Fellow possesses a key to open the gate, which is seldom in use.

The gate was designed as a decorative screen that would be equally successful from either side, so as to appear to have neither a back nor a front, the latter being indicated only by the position of the lock. The design is open and non-repetitive, allowing clear views of the landscaped garden or of the new building. The inspiration for the gate came partly from an existing circular oxidized silver brooch whose curving arcs and arrows were faintly reminiscent of the curves of gates already located within the College complex. The design for the gate changed very little from the first pencil sketch to the finalized structure. It terminates with three goldleafed arrows, a gesture in reference to all gates, and in particular to the gate into the Canterbury Quadrangle of St John’s College.

In the central section of the gate is a lens set within a metal frame, like a transparent gem. It is an optical device that enables the observer to see a wider and clearer image of the space beyond. The lens is a metaphor for the curious enquiring mind and the desire for expanded knowledge.

GARDEN GATE
MILD STEEL, OPTICAL GLASS AND GOLD LEAF
1993
FELLOWS’ GARDEN, ST JOHN’S COLLEGE, OXFORD
3 M X 1.1 M X 3 CM OVERALL DEPTH
PHOTOGRAPHS: BOB CRAMP

Back to main index



Garden Gate St John's College, Oxford



Garden Gate St John's College, Oxford



Drawing for Garden Gate St John's College, Oxford



Detail - optical lens at the center of the Graden Gate St John's College ,Oxford