herzog & de meuron: blavatnik school of government, oxford herzog & de meuron: blavatnik school of government, oxford
may 13, 2013

herzog & de meuron: blavatnik school of government, oxford

the new blavatnik school of government by herzog & de meuron image © herzog & de meuron




in 2011, herzog & de meuron was appointed to design the new blavatnik school of government (BSG) at the university of oxford. after some controversy over the planning guidelines of the historic site, oxford city councilors have finally granted the firm permission to build the learning institution on the southwest corner of the city’s landmark radcliffe observatory quarter, adjacent to st. paul’s church and sommerville college, with oxford university press opposite on walton street.

left: junction of great clarendon street and walton street, baselineright: junction of great clarendon street and walton street, photomontage




the design development of the structure has been largely informed by the existing townscape so that it aligns with the conservation areas and listed buildings of oxford’s heritage. the proposal is a precise geometric form which allows its important neighbors to maintain and improve their presence, while opening up access to the site. the overall geometry of BSG is a composition of orthogonal and rectangular forms. the predominantly curved architecture appears as a series of disk-like volumes, stacked on top of one another and shifted slightly, giving the school a unique presence within its historical context. the main entrance into the school is located at the middle of the walton street elevation, centered underneath the main teaching floor at level 1. the circular geometry seen here, as viewed from the library square, slowly transitions into a rectangular shape, speaking to the square structures which surround it, resulting in a ‘sheldonian’ theater-like shape.

left: walton street at the bend after little clarendon streetright: approach on walton street, photomontage




the internal planning of the school is focused around the heart of the building: the forum. this area slices through the structure as a vertical public space which connects all levels and programs. this is the foundation of the swiss architects’ design approach for the building, focusing on the idea of providing openness, ease of communication and transparency. its function is not only to connect and provide access between the various interior zones, but also provides a congregation and meeting area through a series of interconnected terraces that step up from the ground floor, moving towards the upper levels.

townscape: panorama from the historic carfax tower




the blavatnik school of government is set for completion in mid-2015 and will house teaching and academic spaces, supported by meeting, administration, research and service areas, all connected by the central ‘forum’. the lower levels house the large public and teaching programs which include a 200 seat auditorium. the academic and research programs which require a quieter atmosphere, are situated on the upper levels. crowing the BSG is the library research tower which overlooks an outdoor terrace, library square to the north, and offers views of oxford. the project is made possible by a generous donation of 75 million GBP from billionaire leonard blavatnik.

townscape: view from wellington street

townscape: view from raleigh park

ground planimage © herzog & de meuron



animation of the proposed site
video courtesy of blavatnik school of government



site plan diagramimage © herzog & de meuron



site strategyimage © herzog & de meuron



site planimage © herzog & de meuron





axonometric planimage © herzog & de meuron


image © herzog & de meuron



sectionimage © herzog & de meuron



image © herzog & de meuron



exploded diagram detailing the organization of the programsimage © herzog & de meuron

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