Master’s Fields Sports Pavilion at Balliol College, Oxford

Flexible pavilion furniture for a unique piece of architecture

Frances Wright, Domestic Bursar at Balliol College, says: “We had used Luke Hughes before for some tables and chairs in two of our meeting rooms at Broad Street. We were so impressed with the beauty, quality and robust nature of the furniture that we knew they were the best company to use for our new Pavilion. Josh from Luke Hughes was extremely helpful at suggesting the right tables and chairs and wood shade to complement the wood in the Pavilion. Luke Hughes' attention to detail and customer service is second to none and we are all so pleased with the results.” 

The Master’s Fields sports pavilion is the social heart of a substantial development at Balliol College, OxfordCompleted in June 2021, the site was master planned by award-winning practice Níall McLaughlin Architects with buildings to supplement the college’s existing accommodation and bring this 750-year educational institution in to the 21st century. The latest development includes 200 student rooms in ten residential blocks, and further accommodation for fellows and visiting professors. The three-storey blocks are arranged around the edges of the Master’s Fields sports ground; the pavilion’s low timber-framed structure serves as an anchor for this cluster of sedate brick-clad buildings designed in the collegiate tradition 

 

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Inside the pavilion is a contemporary space that opens itself up to use for dining, socialising and observing the day’s play. The main space is animated by light filtering down from a glazed clerestory abovethrough a complex timber lattice ceiling structure recalls delicate Japanese architecture. The pavilion’s retractable glass doors open on to the sports ground to give guests the feeling of being inside and outside at the same time. An overhanging pergola on three sides of the building creates shaded areas for pavilion outdoor furniture. This generous canopy allows events to spill out of the building, creating additional capacity in good weather 

Tucked away at the rear of the space is a small kitchen and servery, both designed in keeping with the rest of the calm interior. These give this small elegant building the capability to hold smart dinners as well as cater to hungry playersUnderneath the light and airy pavilion, is a lower level housing a squash court with team changing rooms and showersOn this level is also an energy centre for the whole development’s mechanical plant. 

We supported Balliol College with finding the right pavilion seating and tables for this unique take on a traditional building type. As a multi-use events space, the solution needed to be flexible, with pavilion furniture that could be easily re-arranged, cleared away and stored. The indoor-outdoor nature of the building meant the chosen pavilion furniture had to be able to be moved quickly when the notorious British weather turns  

From our previous work with Balliol, the college was familiar with the Athena folding tables and trolleys that now also serve the pavilion space. But a minimal and contemporary  pavilion chair was also needed to complement the calm natural oak of the interior and lattice ceiling structure. The lightweight, stacking LH-42 chair made the perfect fit. With a compact solid oak frame and steam-curved backrest, it has an elegant and timeless design that pairs well with the pavilion’s architectural qualities.  

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 The LH-42 pavilion chair is versatile, being available in a wide range of finishes and upholstery choices. However a simple version of this classic chair made the best match for the muted interior. The ability to stack the pavilion chair up to eight high on a rolling dolly made it a practical choice for the college too. 

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