The many faces of conservation

Solid Structures has been involved with four conservation projects which have been short listed for the Oxford Preservation Trust Awards 2019 (OPT 2019). The broad range of projects shortlisted for these prestigious awards have made us contemplate the different nuances of the word conservation or preservation.

Conservation as preservation of the old

Traditionally, conservation meant to preserve, to retain, to protect from damage. The Westgate Tiles is a prime example of this train of thought.

The tiles were discovered by Oxford Archaeology during the south excavations which saw up to 50 dedicated archaeologists working on site to reveal the extensive remains of the medieval Greyfriars friary (AD 1244-1538) during the construction. The works was recognised by the British Archaeological Awards as ‘Best Archaeological Project 2016’.


 The display work was completed by the specialist heritage contractor Cliveden Conservation in time for the opening of the shopping centre in October 2017. Solid Structures designed the steel frame work to aid sequencing of the restored tiled panels ensuring the finished structure and fixings would not be visible.


Conservation as contemporary interpretation of the old

Our second OPT 2019 short listed project, The Pre-Prep addition to Summer Fields School is echoing the massing of the adjacent buildings whilst simple windows punch holes in the metal facade in a rhythm similar to its neighbours’.

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Despite the references to its historical context, the addition is undeniably contemporary, adding to the richness of its surrounds. Visit our projects pages for more information on this project.

Conservation as technological enhancement of the old

At St Peter’s College, we were asked to assist with acoustic improvements to the dining facilities at the Grade 2 listed Hannington Hall built around 1832. Due to the barrel vault shape of the hall, there were areas with acoustic dead spots and areas with distorted sound throughout the hall.


The problem was overcome with the introduction of acoustic panels fixed to a light weight metal framework between the ribbed roof rafters. In this case technological intervention, sympathetically applied, helped conserve the hall for use for many more generations.


Conservation as placemaking, year xero in history

Solid Structures’ Civils team has been involved in the access road design of the Science Oxford Centre and Wood Centre for Innovation, also shortlisted for the OPT 2019. This development, set in an eighteen acre woodland site in Headington, puts sustainable placemaking at the centre if its design philosophy.


Good design combined with sustainable building technologies provide a fantastic facility to local residents, primary education and science and technology development companies. Here, conservation is interpreted as sustainable future proofing through education, training and research.


We're finalists at the WOBAs!


The office is buzzing with excitement today after last night's announcement that Solid Structures are finalists in the West Oxfordshire Business Awards!

After a couple of gruelling interviews earlier this year, last night we found ourselves on the all important finalists board for both the Small Business of the Year and the Employer of the Year. 

We'll find out on the 29th March if we've won, so fingers and toes crossed until then!


New accreditations for Solid Structures


Solid Structures are pleased to announce that we have successfully achieved Constructionline Silver accreditation for meeting pre-qualification requirements appropriate to public and private level procurement. 

We have also been awarded the Health and Safety Accreditation by Acclaim Accreditation for securing the health and safety standards required under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015.

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Solid Structures wins a Plaque at the Oxford Preservation Trust Awards 2016

We are delighted to have been awarded a plaque at the 39th Oxford Preservation Trust Awards recognising the restoration work to the roof of the Great Hall, Christ Church . 

The OPT Awards celebrate 'Keeping the best of the old and encouraging the best of the new'. 36 buildings were shortlisted across four categories; Building Conservation, New Buildings, Small Projects and Environment / Landscape Enhancement.  

The roof restoration project at Christ Church picked up one of the only two plaques awarded for Building Conservation. 

Professor Malcolm Airs, Vice President of the Oxford Preservation Trust and Chairman of the awards panel, praised the project in his speech at the awards; “Apart from its newly cleaned and bright decorative finish, the result is sublimely invisible – which is just as it ought to be. This was an exemplary conservation project.”

The Great Hall was originally commissioned by Cardinal Wolsey and designed by Humphrey Coke; it was completed in 1529. Admired daily by tourists and academics alike this magnificent Grade 1 listed building required substantial strengthening work following an initial catastrophic failure of an unbraced purlin. Following investigation it was found the roof had undergone significant movement and decay which put its structural stability at major risk.  

Our skilled team worked with passion to ensure that the roof was stabilised, whilst intervention was kept to a minimum and the historic fabric and appearance of this magnificent roof were retained.

The simplest reconnection solution used coach bolts and steel plate to strengthen. More in-depth repairs looked to replace the missing bearing ‘knuckle’ at the junction between the principal rafter and hammer beam with larger pre-formed channels made in steel. We used an extensive birdcage scaffold was required to allow access to repair the roof while allowing some functions in the Great Hall to continue below.

Throughout the project, great care was taken to ensure the historic intervention was minimised. Final solutions modelled in 3D CAD allowed the reinstatement of the historic mouldings to minimise the visual impact. Timber templates were created on site to ensure the steelwork was fabricated to fit the tight spaces available. Further work included some additional purlin repairs, pendant lantern repairs, strengthening diagonal ties, plates & braces and some mortar repairs. 

The main roof repair work was completed by Cliveden Conservation over a period of six months finishing in time for the new summer conference season at the beginning of July 2015.

Further information about the work of the Preservation Trust is available at

Posted by Mark