Blavatnik School of Government

Oxford / United Kingdom / 2015

38
38 Love 3,122 Visits Published

Faculty, students and staff of the Blavatnik School of Government moved into the new building last December, and it has been in use since then. The official opening is planned for Spring 2016.


Developed from the inside, the heart of the building, the forum, cuts through the school as a vertical space connecting all the levels and programs together. Central to a school of government is the idea of openness, communication and transparency; the central forum takes this principle literally by stitching all levels together. This hollow also defines the exterior appearance of the school. Its circular shape shows analogies to government buildings in different places all over the world and at the same time resonates with some of Oxford's most iconic buildings, such as Radcliffe Camera and Sheldonian Theatre.


Jacques Herzog says:
“Oxford is an almost sacred territory for world class education in literally any of its many famous colleges. Its architectural heritage is equally impressive – apart from most of those buildings that were added since modernity has taken command of its urban development. We saw the Blavatnik School of Government as an opportunity to connect back to the traditional building typologies, such us the interior courtyard and the stack of different volumes such as the circle and the horseshoe. These different volumes provide a sense of scale and proportion and thus help integrate the building within its delicate historic context. The interior courtyard – so specific and unique in historic colleges – has become an internal forum inspired by parliamentary and governmental spaces. It is made to stimulate communication and informal exchange between students, scholars and visitors from all over the world.”


Ascan Mergenthaler, Senior Partner, says:
“Together with the School we developed a diversity of spaces offering a multitude of settings and conditions for studying, learning, exchanging, teaching and working – ranging from private and acoustically sealed to open and casual – yet they all share the visual and physical connection to the central forum; this creates a sense of community and intimacy that is fundamental to a school of government.”


 


“The Blavatnik School of Government will become a global centre of excellence for the study of government and public policy. The School’s aim is to teach the practice of government and leadership in ways which will strengthen communities, create opportunities and foster cooperation across the world. The School offers Oxford University a new way to contribute to the world”
Blavatnik School of Government Brochure


Such a vision requires a specific response and building.
Our starting point is from the inside, from the heart of the building, the Forum. This space cuts through the school as a vertical public space connecting all the levels and programs together into one whole. Central to a school of government is the idea of openness, communication and transparency, the central forum takes this principle literally by stitching all levels together. In the first instance the Forum provides access between spaces, but more importantly it provides congregation, meeting and social spaces. In our proposal its arrangement is in many ways like that of an auditorium or a concert hall with a series of interconnected terraces that step up from the ground floor all the way to the upper levels of the School. Each terrace could operate as a separate space, for example as a study area or as part of one connected whole volume for a larger presentation. The Forum will be a space that allows and positively encourages communication and discussion, formal and informal, planned and accidental.


The Blavatnik School of Government will house teaching and academic spaces which are supported by meeting, administration, research and service areas which are all connected by the Forum. At its lower levels, the building houses large public and teaching programs. The upper levels around are occupied by academic and research programs that require a more quiet atmosphere to foster focus and concentration. Crowning the School will be students and faculty spaces, which overlook an outdoor terrace, the Radcliff Observatory Quarter and the whole of Oxford beyond. The School offers a wide range of teaching-space types from small flexible seminar rooms to larger, horseshoe-shaped teaching rooms.


Prominently located at the southwest corner of the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter (ROQ) the School will be the first building pedestrians, visitors and students encounter when approaching this quarter from the south. The School has the potential to become a gateway into this new part of the University and a symbol of its development.


The immediate context is a complex situation with the adjacencies of St Paul’s Church and Somerville College to both sides and the Oxford University Press across Walton Street. The concept of the Forum in the interior sets the decisive and room-defining impulse for the entire building. This circular hollow also defines the exterior appearance of the school. Its cylindrical shapes show analogies to government buildings and universities in different places all over the world.


Our proposal of a series of shifted discs, pure geometric circles, is developed from the parameters of the site and plot boundaries. The shifting in floors creates overhangs and covered volumes and reflects the principles of the masterplan massing with the mass of the building moved northwest towards the centre of the ROQ site. The main entrance is located, in a classical manner, in the middle of the Walton Street elevation, centred underneath the main teaching floor of Level 1 whose circular geometry is transformed into a rectangular form along Walton Street, resulting in a ‘Sheldonian’ like shape. The introduction of this orthogonal form addresses the historic setting in a classical manner, both continuing the line of the St-Paul’s Church portico and echoing the symmetrical entrance of the Oxford University.


With this proposal we aim to provide a project that can act as a focal point both for the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter and the academic activity of the study of government and public policy; a landmark building housing a ground breaking School.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2016

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    Faculty, students and staff of the Blavatnik School of Government moved into the new building last December, and it has been in use since then. The official opening is planned for Spring 2016. Developed from the inside, the heart of the building, the forum, cuts through the school as a vertical space connecting all the levels and programs together. Central to a school of government is the idea of openness, communication and transparency; the central forum takes this principle literally by...

    Project details
    • Year 2015
    • Work finished in 2015
    • Client The University of Oxford
    • Status Completed works
    • Type Schools/Institutes / Colleges & Universities
    Lovers 38 users