The Humanities Division and Library will form the centrepiece of the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter development and will be Oxford University’s largest ever construction project.
Won in competition in May 2008, the new buildings will house a central library, teaching facilities and faculty buildings for the Humanities Division. Conceived in response to the formality of the overall masterplan, the scheme established routes and spaces across the site. It was intended to be experienced as a sequence of connected streets, squares, courtyards and gardens that create a rich and varied public domain, reflecting the scale and grain of Oxford’s historic core.
A key aim of the design was to give the library a legible urban presence, a ground level entrance and open courtyards, which bring daylight into the reader and teaching spaces. As with the urban design, the internal spaces are to be characterised by a range of spaces, from open plan to intimate, from pavilion to courtyard, from outward to inward looking and so on.
The upper buildings will house seven different faculties from across Oxford, while retaining a sense of individual identity for each. Simple and adaptable in nature, the buildings are to be made of enduring contextual materials that act as a backdrop to the lantern and observatory. The facades are designed to temper ambient climate sufficiently to avoid the need for mechanical ventilation and to allow as much individual control as possible by the occupants, thus ensuring a low environmental footprint.
The project obtained planning permission in 2010 and is currently awaiting funding to proceed.