Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Middle East Centre, St Antony’s College in Oxford, United Kingdom by Zaha Hadid Architects
February 28th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Zaha Hadid Architects
The new library, research centre and archive for St. Antony’s College overcomes strong physical constraints to form a suspended ‘bridge’ between existing buildings – blending built and natural elements to find a coherent form – fronted by a curved frameless glass façade which sweeps above a sunken courtyard area.
The Middle East Centre at St. Antony’s College, Oxford serves as a centre for the entire University. At its core is a specialized library and extensive archive. We were commissioned to design a scheme to expand the centre by using a garden plot that links existing premises – complying with the college’s clearly defined vision for future growth and adding formal coherence to the existing quad.
Our intention was to create a less restrictive research environment and improve links between the centre’s academic and social functions. The strong physical constraints imposed by the scale and position of the site demanded a bold and distinctive solution.
In response, we conceived the new connecting building as a series of plateaus and territories, in which different academic, research and social functions are ‘signposted’ by the character of the interior space. Form is driven by a series of tension points spread on a synthetic landscape that blends built and natural elements. The new structure deforms and adapts to this environment, revealing paths and flows. The new ‘bridge’ connects existing elements at different levels – its suspension allowing more public aspects to infiltrate the building.
Bridge form and public spaces are linked by a central staircase, connecting to the centre’s main academic components – with contrasts in scale and depth highlighted by the convex or concave form of the reading spaces. Elevating the bridge allows for a more diverse and complex articulation between interior and exterior.
The sweeping form of the bridge is mirrored in the forecourt area where a curved frameless glass façade reveals the public plateau, frames the main access point and cuts across a sunken area, suitable for private reflection.
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