Beehive stairs get a facelift

Diespeker was part of the team giving new life to a university accommodation block called the Beehive, in Oxford.

The building was built between 1958 and 1960 and is thought to be the first modern building to be built at any Oxford college. 31 hexagonal rooms are clustered around three staircases which boast lanterns and pointed turrets. The Beehive was designed by Michael Powers, part of the Architects’ Co-Partnership, a revolutionary group of architects who wanted to work together as equals and build buildings that had the aim of being socially useful.

The hexagonal design, it seems, was a clever solution to planning requirements. An article in The Architects’ Journal noted that the unusual shape of the rooms ‘expresses perfectly the cellular character of a hall of residence.’

Diespeker’s part in the facelift was with the refurbishment of the original terrazzo stairs in each of the three staircases. The staircases go from the basement to the second floor and have between 32 and 40 treads per staircase.

Underlining the longevity and durability of terrazzo, the stairs were generally in good condition for their age. However, all three had some damaged edges to the nosing which required repairs using resin and marble chipping. The stairs were then cleaned, bringing them back to their former appearance with a matte finish rather than the shiny appearance that comes with well-used terrazzo stairs.

In addition, Diespeker replaced access panels. These were located in each lobby and on each floor level and were originally made precast, and dry laid into steel trays. Bespoke terrazzo panels were made in Diespeker’s factory to provide a seamless replacement.

This listed Grade II building has now been given a new lease of life; stone facades restored, windows replaced and the bedrooms receiving an upgrade with new furniture and flooring. New kitchens and bathrooms were installed, too. The refurbishment took place over the summer in order to be ready for the new intake of students.

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