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Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom 
Thursday 15 Oct 2009
 
Oxford's greatest for 100 years 
 
 
 
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Viñoly and Bennetts Associates' designs for Oxford University revealed 

The University of Oxford has today revealed plans for the two most significant buildings on its new Radcliffe Observatory Quarter (ROQ) – one of the biggest development projects it has undertaken for more than a century.

Plans for the Mathematical Institute, designed by Rafael Viñoly, and the Humanities Building and Library, designed by Bennetts Associates, have been revealed at a public exhibition, held at the Grade II Listed St Luke’s Chapel, on the site today and tomorrow, and planning permission will be sought at the end of this month.

The University’s Mathematical Institute and its Humanities Division will find new homes on the 10-acre ROQ site in central Oxford. Viñoly's new Mathematics building will consolidate a department that had been spread across multiple locations, giving it a new focus and identity - one that will balance researchers’ needs for privacy with the increasing importance of interdisciplinary collaboration. It will be the main workplace for over 500 academics and staff, as well as the centre of academic life for approximately 1000 students, fellows and lecturers.

Above ground, the scheme comprises two volumes of up to five storeys of academic research accommodation. Below ground, two basement levels are proposed accommodating seminar rooms, lecture theatres and open plan public spaces for undergraduates. A two-storey glazed element links the two blocks, containing the main entrance lobby and providing circulation vertically.

The building’s discrete and contextual form has been carefully sculpted in direct response to the historic and urban conditions of the site. The scheme’s relationship with its neighbouring listed buildings and frontages to prominent roads and walkways is carefully articulated to suggest a sequence of public spaces of different scales and characters. Open squares, intimate courtyards, and carefully directed walkways bound the perimeter of the building.

Rafael Viñoly, Principal of Rafael Viñoly Architects said:“We are delighted to be moving forward with the Mathematical Institute. It has been an inspiration working with the mathematicians in shaping a building that will unify their community from undergraduate through to professor and create a new, singular identity for the department.”

The new Humanities Building and Library, designed by Bennetts Associates, will form the centrepiece of the ROQ development, with the Observatory itself providing a clear focus and identity for the whole quarter. The first phase brings together four faculties -English, History, Theology and Philosophy, plus the general facilities for the Division.

The project will also provide an integrated library facility for all the eventual occupants of the site, as well as teaching spaces for up to 1500 students, all of which are linked to provide physical and intellectual connections.

At the centre of the composition is a ‘lantern’ structure that rises two storeys above upper ground level, allowing a spectacular central space to be created within the library and a striking pavilion for the quad gardens. The shape of the lantern allows views of the Radcliffe Observatory from well inside the library, includes reader spaces located above the level of the gardens themselves, and forms a lively focus to both of the library’s main floors. Beyond this central pool of daylight, the lower floor is largely allocated to book storage and functions not requiring daylight (such as plant rooms).

Rab Bennetts, Director of Bennetts Associates, said:“The intention behind this scheme is to extend the spirit of historic Oxford, with quadrangles, gardens, glimpses and vistas. The development offers an extremely ambitious range of accommodation and we want to create something that feels calm and restrained, so that the new library lantern and the 18th century Radcliffe Observatory can dominate the public realm.”

Rafael Viñoly Architects

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Status Design
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Bennetts Associates Architects
www.bennettsassociates.com

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