Founded in 1957, the Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College serves as the University of Oxford’s facility for research and teaching on the Arab world, Iran, Israel and Turkey from the 19th century to the present day, with its focus on the research of humanities and social sciences. Since 1978, the centre has been housed at 68 Woodstock Road (the former rectory of the Church of St Philip and St James, built in 1887).
The Centre holds Oxford University’s primary collection on the modern Middle East, at its research core is the specialised library, document and photographic archive. Since its establishment in 1961, the world-class archive has grown to over 400 collections of private papers and now holds more than 100,000 historic photographs.
The new Investcorp Building provides 1,127 square metres of additional floor space and a new lecture theatre, doubling the space available for the Middle East Centre’s expanding library and archive. It provides optimum conditions to conserve and manage the centre’s collections that were previously stored in the basement of 66 Woodstock Road. The new lecture theatre will allow it to expand its popular programme of seminars, lectures and debates - much of which is open to both the University and the public.
The Investcorp Building’s design is defined by the current built and natural environment. It weaves through the site to connect and incorporate the existing protected buildings and trees, while its stainless steel façade softly reflects natural light to echo the building’s context. The project maintains the detached character of the College’s current buildings, allowing them to be read as separate elements, while introducing a contemporary building that conveys the past, present and future evolution of the college, university and city.
The curved form of the library reading room’s western façade accommodates the century-old Sequoia tree and its extensive root network. To the east, the archive reading room and librarians’ offices rise towards the height of the 1970 Brutalist building it faces, yet the new Investcorp Building remains below the roofline of the adjacent 66 Woodstock Road. The 117-seat lecture theatre is located below ground and both the lecture theatre and archive are ventilated through a thermal labyrinth, mitigating the need for mechanical air-handling.
The new Investcorp Building connects disparate buildings within the college, defining a series of spaces for the centre’s renowned archive, library and seminar programmes; allowing the Middle East Centre to expand its commitment as a vital forum of research, understanding and open debate.
Structural Engineer: AKTII;
Mechanical/Electrical/Acoustic Engineer: Max Fordham;
Client’s M&E Consultant: Elementa;
Façade Supplier: Frener + Reifer;
Façade Consultants: Arup Façade Engineering;
Client’s Façade Consultant: Eckersley O’Callaghan;
Project Manager: Bidwells;
Lighting Design: Arup Lighting;
Cost Consultants: Sense Cost Ltd.;
Fire Engineers: Arup Fire;
Planning Supervision: Jppc Oxford;
Forestry & Arboriculture Consultant: Sarah Venner;
Access: David Bonnet;
Landscape Design: Gross Max;
CDM: Andrew Goddard Associates;
Overall Site Area: 1,580 m²;
Gross Internal Area: 1,127 m²;
Building Footprint: 700 m²;
Maximum External Height: Up to 13m;
Library Reading Room Height: Up to 5.7m;
Archives Room Height: Up to 4m;
Auditorium Height: Up to 3.9m;
Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects
Design: Zaha Hadid
Project Director: Jim Heverin
Project Associate: Johannes Hoffmann, Ken Bostock;
Project Architect: Alex Bilton;
Project Team: Sara Klomps, Goswin Rothenthal, Andy Summers, George King, Luke Bowler, Barbara Bochnak, Yeena Yoon, Saleem A Jalil, Theodora Ntatsopoulou, Mireira Sala Font, Amita Kulkarni
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