The Radcliffe Observatory Quarter is one of the most significant development projects the University of Oxford has undertaken for more than a century. It is a 10-acre site in central Oxford, bound by the Woodstock Road, Somerville College, Walton Street, Observatory Street, and Green Templeton College, and is the last remaining large plot of land available for development in the historic heart of the city.
The stunning eighteenth century Observatory (the Palace of the Winds) has been restored and the University will restore the other listed buildings on the site, such as the Grade II listed 1770 Infirmary. The demolition of the more recent and dilapidated hospital buildings which crowded these historic buildings was recorded by artist in residence, Weimin He. He will continue to sketch and make prints as the construction work begins. For Oxford Opendoors, the general public were allowed into the board rooms of the infirmary. The 1770 buildings will eventually become the University Headquarters. The plans and models of the on going development were displayed in St Luke’s, the restored hospital chapel. Large hoardings were erected to prevent the public straying onto the building site. They were covered with a design which included pictures by Weimin He and two poems – one of which was mine. There was extensive archaeological work undertaken in 2008/2009 but the main findings were two graveyards, one of which was a cholera pit- hence the plagues past! The artist is, of course, Weimin He.