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St Catherine’s College builds new temporary lecture theatre in three weeks

In just three weeks, a new temporary lecture theatre with a capacity of 250 was built in St Catherine’s College, amid continued access restrictions to key operational buildings in the College, including their permanent lecture theatre. 

The discovery of RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete) has caused many of the College’s structures to be shut down for remediation work. Building company Neptunus stated the College’s need for a “rapid high-quality temporary solution… to maintain their busy schedule of lectures, seminars and events,” according to a press release.

During construction of the theatre, Neptunus faced numerous technical challenges amidst the poor weather conditions occurring during the early half of 2024. The highly saturated and uneven ground – further compromised by St Catherine College’s location alongside the River Cherwell – required scaffolders to ensure the structures were at a uniform height by erecting part of the complex on scaffolding and external walkways.

Despite this, the lecture theatre was completed in less than a month, with a capacity of up to 250 people, and it is fitted out with amenities such as tiered seating, lighting and air conditioning. The fit-out of the facility was completed in a further three weeks, which included additional spaces such as a foyer and breakout rooms for seminars.

While the theatre is intended to be temporary, it was made to emulate “the look and feel of a permanent building,” the company’s press release states, and its main entrance is around one of the College’s treasured sculptures. The theatre is scheduled to remain on the site for at least nine months.

Neptunus also revealed St Catherine’s College  contracted them following their success in previous projects with other Oxford colleges. The Northamptonshire-based company had previously built temporary multi-functional rooms for Trinity College during their renovations in 2019.

Belinda Gardner, St Catherine’s College Conference Manager, said in the statement: “Throughout the project, Neptunus demonstrated professionalism, open communication, and conduct that aligned with our own standards, finishing the works to an exceptionally high standard. We are grateful that this venue was made available in such a short amount of time, particularly given the difficult weather conditions experienced during January 2024.”

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