The University of Oxford, has won planning permission for a new 6,000 sq m research facility adjacent to the existing Clarendon Laboratory, located at the northwest corner of the University’s Science Area. The project forms part of the University’s wider development plan for this part of Oxford and is in a very sensitive location opposite Keble College Chapel and the University Parks.
The building will bring together the separate disciplines of Experimental and Theoretical Physics onto a single site, with physical links to the existing Physics Department Buildings.
Experimental Physics will be accommodated within a 12m deep double basement providing state-of-the-art laboratories suitable for facilitating world class research in the fields of nanotechnology, quantum properties of materials, quantum optics and atomic force microscopy.
The five floors above ground have been designed to provide bespoke accommodation suited to the unique working methods of Theoretical Physics. Acoustically separate individual and group offices are organised around the perimeter of the building, while the centre of the plan provides a series of linked informal group working spaces. These are located on half levels to facilitate visual connections between floors. This collaborative heart will facilitate open and lively discussion in a way that invites contributions from the whole building.
HawkinsBrown has developed the massing and façade design in response to the highly sensitive context within which this building sits. Influences have been taken from Keble College Chapel and the University Museum, both Grade I Listed, as well as more contemporary Oxford buildings such as Arne Jacobsen's St. Catherine’s College. A rhythm of weathered bronze fins articulates the building on two scales to provide a vertical emphasis. The façade steps in height and depth to further break down the mass of the building. Double height picture windows provide key views in and out from the collaboration spaces.
The building forms an important new gateway to the city centre when travelling from the north. The edge of the university estate is set back to create new sight lines of the University Parks, marked by a new gate. The new building will form a new University ‘quad’ in front of the existing physics buildings including the Grade II Listed Townsend building.