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Mailen Design’s Quarterly Retreat: Looking Ahead in Historic Oxford

Updated: May 10

Modern Updates to Grade II Listed Pomander House

Last Friday marked an exceptional day for the Mailen Design team as we embarked on our quarterly retreat to the historic and academic city of Oxford. Nestled between the bustling metropolis of London and the tranquil landscapes of Oxfordshire, our retreat’s location reflects our practice’s commitment to continued education and our passion blending tradition and innovation in architecture. This convergence of past and present in our chosen setting perfectly encapsulates the spirit of our team—forward-thinking, yet deeply respectful of our architectural heritage.


After a quick wander through the rainy city centre (featuring a dip into the breathtaking basement of Blackwell’s Bookshop), our day began in earnest with an architectural tour of Jesus College, an exemplar of seamlessly blending historic and modern architectural practices.


We were led on a guided tour of the college's venerable Fellows' Library, a beautiful 17th century space housing the College’s 11,500 early printed books and manuscripts dating as far back as 1467. The Fellows' Library's classic Jacobean architecture features rich wood panelling and intricate stone arches that evoke the intellectual legacy of the space. Now mainly a resource for research related to its holdings, it stands as a testament to the college's commitment to preserving its architectural heritage.


Adjacent to this historic marvel, we then toured the recently completed Cheng Yu Tung Building, one of the city’s first fully zero carbon buildings. This new £40M extension contrasts yet complements the Elizabethan and Jacobean architecture that dominates the rest of Jesus College. The building's design features clean, modern lines and extensive use of glass that floods the interiors with natural light, enhancing its energy efficiency and connecting the indoor spaces with the surrounding landscapes. Designed to accommodate postgraduate students, it includes state-of-the-art teaching spaces and a high-tech Digital Hub, marking the largest expansion of the college since the 17th century.


In a historic boardroom at Jesus College, the Mailen Design team came together for our official annual review. As is fitting for our practice, the presentations encouraged a dynamic and inclusive dialogue where everyone had the opportunity to voice their thoughts and contribute.


Our discussion highlighted operational successes and the areas where we aim to enhance our workflows and project management practices. Sustainability, a key focus for us, was a major topic. We dove into our ongoing efforts to integrate sustainable practices into every project, reflecting our commitment to responsible design.


Team growth and structure also took centre stage. We celebrated the fresh perspectives brought by new team members, enhancing our collaborative efforts. This segment of our meeting underscored the importance of every individual’s role within our firm, fostering a deeper appreciation for our collective efforts.


The session was punctuated with laughter and lively exchanges, with plenty of snacks to keep us going. A particular highlight was the fun and engaging team-building exercise where we pitched ideas for the location and activities of our next quarterly retreat. This spirited exchange not only provided entertainment but also sparked creative thinking and team cohesion.


At Mailen Design, we pride ourselves on a company culture that encourages growth, collaboration, and innovation. Our retreat to Oxford affirmed these values, giving us the space to celebrate our successes and acknowledge the unique strengths of our dynamic team. As we look ahead, we are excited by the potential of our upcoming projects and the opportunities that our growth continues to open up.


This retreat has not only fortified our team spirit but has also left us inspired and energised to approach our projects with renewed vigour and a deepened commitment to architectural excellence.


Here's to a future where we continue to build and innovate, keeping the human experience at the core of all that we do. Mailen Design is poised for another groundbreaking year, and our greatest strength, as always, remains our people.



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