Investcorp Building Expansion of Oxford University | The Plan
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Investcorp Building Expansion of Oxford University

Zaha Hadid Architects

Investcorp Building Expansion of Oxford University
By Caterina Testa -

Founded in 1957, the Middle East Centre at St Anthony’s College is Oxford University’s Middle East research facility whose mainly humanities and social sciences collection dates from the 19th century to today.

The Investcorp building designed by Zaha Hadid Architects flanks the centre’s historic headquarters at 68 Woodstock Road and its archive at number 66, and adds a further 1,127 sq m and a new 117-seat lecture room.

The Zaha Hadid signature trait of creating a new landscape with every new building here came up against several constraints. The site is wedged between two historic landmarks: the former rectory of the Church of St Philip and St James built in 1887, and the Brutalist Hilda Besse building.

The restricted site prompted the idea of a bridge between the two structures, a shimmering volume changing appearance as you move around it. The Investcorp building slides into this interstitial space like a liquid, slipping between the 19th century constructions and the 1960’s building, and sliding around an old sequoia tree in the centre of the court.

Its stainless steel façade softly reflects the natural light and its surroundings. While on the one hand, the reflective surfaces seem to dematerialize the new building, on the other, the ever-changing reflections on the screen-like façades amplify the small inner court.

Comprising three upper and one below ground levels, the curving volume connects directly with the pre-existing buildings. There are environments for academic research and public meeting areas. The lecture room and document and photographic archives are on the below ground level; the ground floor comprises the main entrance, the distribution circuit to the two other buildings, the library and cafeteria; the first and second floor house reading rooms naturally illuminated by skylights.

The architectural and structural design is...

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