Since its founding in 2012, the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University has been spread across three separate sites. Now, three years later, students have moved into the school’s new amalgamated home, a series of disc-shaped volumes conceived by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron.
The building primarily houses teaching and academic spaces, supported by meeting, administration, research, and service areas. Externally, the structure appears as a series of vertically stacked discs designed to promote open discussion, interaction, and collaboration, the scheme is internally organised around a centrally positioned public zone, known as the ‘Forum’. This void, around which teaching spaces are located, ensures that natural light reaches lecture theatres and provides a space for exhibitions, presentations and impromptu engagement.
The building primarily houses academic spaces for the University of Oxford on the lower ground floor, two horseshoe-shaped lecture theatres provide seating for 80 and 120 people respectively. These auditoriums are designed to facilitate interaction among the students as well as with the lecturer, and are equipped with state-of-the-art audio and visual facilities. Above, a flexible teaching space can be used as a single, large room for lectures and conferences or divided into four separate spaces for smaller seminars, group discussions or meetings.
The quieter upper levels contain academic programs, while the building is topped with a library research tower — a facility which adjoins an outdoor terrace that offers views across the city. Glazed dividing walls and mini internal courtyards with skylights help illuminate study spaces, ensuring that the building serves as a warm, comfortable and open environment in which to work. Externally, the scheme appears as a series of discs, vertically stacked and shifted slightly to give the school a distinct presence within its historical context.
From an environmental perspective, the building is expected to consume 49% less energy in comparison to existing UK buildings of the same size and use. A host of integrated solutions have been utilised, including: automated natural ventilation, a ground source heat pump for warming and cooling the building, rooftop photovoltaic panels, and rainwater harvesting.
Instinct Furniture BLOG, mostly about cool libraries, furniture and design – keeping you abreast of our world. (Source: Designboom). All images courtesy of the Blavatnik School of Government.