The Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford, UK

Herzog & de Meuron
Date Built
Completed 2015
Walton Street
The new Blavatnik School of Government building occupies a portion of the former John Radcliff Hospital site and has its main entrance facing Walton Street in the Jericho district of Oxford.

The architects say on their website that their design was a specific response to the vision of the school.  "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.  ...  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."

They add that their proposal was a building made up of, "a series of shifted discs, pure geometric circles, .... 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 at Library Square 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."

The school's administration are clearly delighted with the work of both Laing O'Rourke, the builders, and Herzog & de Meuren, who they describe as, "... among the world’s most influential contemporary architects."  They place particular emphasis on the environmental credentials of the building.  "The entire construction of the building has been designed to meet the highest standards of environmental sustainability. Innovative heating and ventilation technologies will minimise energy use. The building’s thermal mass will provide exceptional cooling and heating benefits, as the exposed concrete will absorb and store daytime heat until it can be released back when exposed to cooler air in the evening.  The ventilation is “mixed mode”, which means that under normal circumstances it will operate purely on natural airflow and mechanical ventilation will only kick in under more extreme weather conditions. Geothermal boreholes will provide heating and cooling through ground-source heat pumps, and eventually, the building will become part of a wider geothermal network on the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter (ROQ) site.  Other innovations contributing to the sustainability credentials of the building include solar panels on the rooftop, a rainwater-harvesting tank, solar shading on the windows, and low energy, motion sensor light fittings."


Take a look inside


Images from the construction phase.

February 11, 2015

March 5, 2015

April 9, 2015

April 27, 2015

May 18, 2015

June 26, 2015