Hilda Besse Renovations

Hilda Besse Renovations

This section contains all you need to know about the Hilda Besse renovations. It has information on the Hilda Besse building herself, the logistics of the works, and practical information for current and prospective students. Check back here for regular updates. There are links to where you can get more information on specific aspects of the project. 

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'Hilda Box' Temporary Structure

  History of the Hilda Besse Building  A new vision of the Hilda Besse  

What is the Hilda Besse?

The Hilda Besse is the site of many of college’s most important functions. This includes social spaces such as the dining hall, common room, and buttery/bar, and those set aside for meetings and academic purposes. As one of the finest examples of post-war brutalist architecture, the Hilda Besse has received several prestigious awards, including a RIBA award and a Concrete Society Award. Built at the end of the 1960’s, this grade II listed building has been the heart of St Antony’s ever since. The time has now come to undertake works to ensure the Hilda Besse can stay so, restored to her former glory.

Present day image of the south elevation

What is happening?

The planned works are the wholesale refurbishment of the Hilda Besse to preserve the building for future generations of Antonians. The key goals are to repair and preserve the concrete itself, to improve facilities and access to them for all, and to improve the fabric of the building to increase energy efficiency. 

During the planning phase for these renovations the original plans for the Hilda Besse building were re-discovered. These include features and design details that seem to have been foregone at the time, (perhaps due to funding constraints). The renovations will not just restore the Hilda Besse, but complete the original architect’s vision. Below is the current concept art for several key areas of the Hilda Besse post-renovations. Please note that these are working drawings and subject to change. 

Conceptual art for the new Dining HallConceptual art for the new Buttery


Why Now? 

The Hilda Besse has been in constant use since its opening in 1971 and is now in need of vital renovations to ensure it can be used in the years to come. The works are important both for the safety and longevity of the building itself, and to improve its ability to serve the college community. Works started in summer 2019, with temporary facilities built during the summer vacation and the renovations to the Hilda Besse commencing at the start of Michaelmas term. Below is the estimated timetable for key milestones of the project. These are still subject to change. 

Planning Approval  May 2019
Temporary Replacement Services from August 2019 
Works Start on Site from October 2019 
Completion of Work April 2021
Building Reoccupied  April 2021 
Site Cleared and Reinstated  June 2021


Temporary Structure/Replacement Facilities

The Hilda Besse is such a vital part of the daily life of the college that all functions have been replicated in full through the use of temporary facilities on site. As the building will be inaccessible during the works, from August 2019 temporary facilities were built in the college quad to minimise any inconvenience. 


Hilda Box exterior view of hoarding


What will the impact of these renovations be? 

Every effort is being made to minimise any disruption to the college community during the works. Works will largely take place inside the building and between the hours of 8am and 5pm (Monday to Friday) to attenuate any disruption from noise. Rent discounts are based on those living in college accommodation around the site, and replacement facilities (the Hilda Box!) have been built to house all the activities that take place in the Hilda Besse building.

Need the answer to a specific question? Take a look at our FAQ page here