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Some of the Best Oxford Architectural Design

4 Oct '18

Photo Credit Luke Hayes for Zaha Hadid Architects
Photo credit Herzog & de Meuron
Radcliffe Camera
Rowing School  Photo credit: Dezeen

Working as architects in Oxford it is fair to say we are surrounded by some of the best architectural design in the world and we never fail to find inspiration on our doorstep. Oxford itself is renowned for its late Saxon street layouts and medieval university buildings, drawing in tourists from all over the world. However, some of the more modern architecture often gets overlooked during these historical pilgrimages. For those planning a trip to the city, or for locals just looking for recommendations, here is, in our humble opinion, some of the best Oxford architecture that is not to be missed…

Zaha Hadid’s modernist library

A nod to the late Zaha Hadid, her Oxford architecturally designed library faced much controversy following its unveiling at the end of May 2015. Situated between two Victorian buildings on the Woodstock Road it was designed to be a much-needed space for the Middle East Centre, doubling the ever-expanding library with room for a 118-seat lecture theatre. Named the Investcorp Building after the investment company who donated the £11m for the project, it has been met with both praise and criticism, some finding it an eyesore alongside the traditional architecture while others hail it a modern triumph. We say it is worth a visit; whilst created predominantly from steel, suggesting a harsh appearance, you can catch the surface at certain times of the day to reveal a magnificent reflection of a sunset or blue sky and tree lined streets, undoubtedly adding to it's appeal.

Herzog & de Meuron Blavatnik School of Government

Another new addition to the city, completed in 2015, the Blavatnik School of Government was created with a view to becoming a global centre of excellence for the study of Government and Public Policy. With such an important ethos in mind it was vital for the architects to create a building that could live up to this ambition and we think Herzog & de Meuron have achieved just this. Externally the building looks like a series of discs stacked on top of each other. Internally this creates an auditorium-like space, with a library to the top overlooking an outdoor terrace, and teaching spaces to the lower floors. Each floor is connected by interlocking terraces.

James Gibbs: The Radcliffe Camera

Yet another university building, yet this one dates some time earlier, The Radcliffe Camera was designed by James Gibbs and built between 1737 and 1749. It is one of the most photographed landmarks within the city walls, and understandably so. Its neo-classical style is undeniably beautiful. The Radcliffe Camera was funded by John Radcliffe, the physician, following his death as per the terms of his will. ‘Camera’ translates from Latin, simply meaning ‘room’ and the building itself houses the Radcliffe science library.

Edward Jones and Sir Jeremy Dixon: Said Business School

Built on the site of the Oxford Rewley Road railways station the business school was completed in 2001. Named after its chief benefactor, Wafic Said, the project is a prime example of post-modern Oxford architecture. The building itself abandons strict rules and, instead, mixes a range of architectural design. The amphitheatre is an example of more classic design; there are nods towards the traditional Oxford college form and then a ziggurat, to reflect the donor’s heritage.

The Saxon Tower of St Michael at the North Gate

This is a mesmerising piece of Saxon history. Within the UK there are very few examples of Saxon architecture left standing, yet here in Oxford we are blessed to have a whole tower remaining intact. The Saxon Tower of St Michael dates to 1040. Since Anglo-Saxon buildings were largely built for function, rather than grandeur, they were prone to collapse as the years went on. This example in Oxford has been well maintained and the public are able to climb the tower, admire the view and see the door to the Bocardo prison, where the Oxford Martyrs were imprisoned before their execution

Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral is one of the most recognised landmarks in Oxford, with the spire towering over many other landmarks and visible for miles. In recent years visitor numbers have been steadily climbing following parts of the Harry Potter movies being filmed there, but architecturally the cathedral is awe-inspiring. It is an example of a smaller cathedral, built in the 16th Century following the creation of the Oxford diocese by King Henry VIII. It was built during the renaissance movement to improve education and train young men for an active life in the church.

Mulroy Architects: Rowing school

The final item on our list is, perhaps, not quite so accessible to the public. However, we think it is a great example of inspiring Oxford architectural design, so we couldn’t miss it out. Mulroy Architects completed this timber clad training facility for Radley College Campus in Oxford. From the outside the building is a single-story erection with a large glazed window to the end. Internally is where the true genius of the project unravels. A static boat sits on top of a large pool, unheated, which mimics the movement of the river, allowing the students to train in all weathers. Training used to take place on the Thames, but this was always weather dependent and many hours were lost to inhospitable conditions. Sliding doors to the side allow ventilation whilst the large window to the end provides plenty of natural light.

Has this blog post inspired you to undertake your own architectural design project? Why not contact our Oxford architects to discuss your ideas?