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No start date - but thumbs up for Viñoly and Bennetts' Oxford Uni plans

Oxford City Council has approved the first two buildings within the Oxford University’s proposed new Radcliffe Observatory Quarter (ROQ) – the largest development project at the University for more than a century

The £70 million Mathematical Institute, designed by Rafael Viñoly, is a three-block scheme with a pair of five-storey wings joined by a two-storey glazed entrance lobby.

While the £90 million Humanities Building and Library has been drawn up by Bennetts Associates and will ‘form the centrepiece of the entire development’ on the former hospital site bound by the Woodstock Road, Somerville College, Walton Street, Observatory Street, and Green Templeton College.

However the start date for both schemes is still unclear with the University imposing a moratorium on all capital projects ‘due to the adverse financial environment’.It is understood that although enabling works have already started on site, the earliest construction could begin is mid-2011.

And, intriguingly, while the University’s own Council has approved the next stage of planning work to be completed on the Viñoly scheme, it has not yet fully rubberstamped the Humanities building due to the current cash shortfall.

A spokesman said: ‘Fundraising for both buildings continues to go well despite the prevailing economic situation, but understandably Council can’t give the go ahead for construction until it is satisfied that funding is in place for the whole of each project.

‘[The] Council will review the situation on the Humanities building in due course and there is no sense in which the project has been cancelled indefinitely.’  

Previous story (AJ 15.10.09)

First look at Viñoly’s and Bennetts’ £200m Oxford University proposals

Rafael Viñoly Architects and Bennetts Associates have revealed proposals for two new buildings within Oxford University’s controversial Radcliffe Infirmary redevelopment

The proposed Mathematical Institute, designed by Rafael Viñoly, is essentially a three-block scheme with a pair of five-storey wings joined by a two-storey glazed entrance lobby.

While the new Humanities Building and Library has been masterminded by Bennetts Associates and will ‘form the centrepiece of the entire development’ on the former hospital site, renamed the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter. The scheme features a two-storey copper and glass ‘lantern’ rising above a subterranean library, as well as a number of ‘robust blocks’ arranged in ‘the manner of a traditional Oxford quad’. It will bring together the four faculties of English, History, Theology and Philosophy.

Rab Bennetts, director of Bennetts Associates, said: ‘The intention behind this scheme is to extend the spirit of historic Oxford, with quadrangles, gardens, glimpses and vistas. 

‘The development offers an extremely ambitious range of accommodation and we want to create something that feels calm and restrained, so that the new library lantern and the 18th century Radcliffe Observatory can dominate the public realm.’

Both projects together are understood to be worth around £200 million.

Today’s announcement (15 October) comes just 10 days after the University bagged planning permission for the first phase of the development, involving new buildings at Somerville College designed by Niall McLaughlin.

The plans have gone on show at a public exhibition, held at the Grade II-listed St Luke’s Chapel on the site, which will stay open until tomorrow night.

Planning permission for the city centre scheme will be applied for at the end of this month (October 2009). 

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