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Daniel Libeskind’s Durham University physics centre opens

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Studio Libeskind’s £11.5 million Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics at Durham University officially opens today

The 2,478m² building’s angular form is distinctively Libeskindesque in appearance; spiral in plan and designed as continuous, stacked and interlocking forms. It is clad in a ventilated larch rainscreen, punctuated with bands of strip windows, and incorporates a series of outdoor terraces. Canted curtain walls on the north and south faces bookend the spiral form and provide views of Durham Cathedral and the city. 

Libeskind described the building as ‘an example of how to design a highly sustainable, dynamic building within tight programme requirements. Light and openness is at the core of the design; at every move in the design process we incorporated simple, yet robust materials and considered the users’ experience to create this important building.’ 

The interiors use a natural palette of soft grey concrete columns and ceilings, paired with warm wood finishes and frosted glass. Offices are pushed to the perimeter of the building, allowing each space to benefit from natural light and ventilation. In addition, glazed doors and screens further transmit light to the central communal multi-storey interior space, also lit by a massive skylight. 

The building has been designed to be highly energy efficient. Its exposed concrete ceilings take advantage of the night-purge effect, and LED fixtures are used throughout, as well as renewable energy sources, including a ground source heat pump and photovoltaic array on the roof. The landscape incorporates rainwater harvesting. 

The centre is located next to the university’s main physics department on Lower Mountjoy, South Road. It houses the Institute for Computational Cosmology, one of the world’s premier cosmology research groups, the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy and the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation. The centre includes 80 offices for researchers, postgraduate research students, support staff and visiting academics. 

Architect’s view

This project is an example of how to design a highly-sustainable, dynamic building within tight programme requirements. Light and openness is at the core of the design; at every move in the design process we incorporated simple, yet robust materials and considered the users’ experience to create this important building for Durham University.

Studio libeskind the ogden centre durham university ©hufton+crow 004

Studio libeskind the ogden centre durham university ©hufton+crow 004

Source: Hufton + Crow

Project data

Start on site August 2015
Completion March 2017
Gross internal floor area  2,478m² 
Cost £11.5 million
Form of procurement Design and Build
Design architect
Studio Libeskind
Architect of record Garbers & James
Client Durham University
Structural and M&E and acoustic engineer Arup
Landscape architect Jane Findley, Fira Landscape 
Cost and safety Summers Inman 
General contractor Interserve 
CAD software used AutoCAD and Rhino

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I wonder how noisy that central space is? The architect's predilection for raw concrete suggests that this might not be the calmest of academic environments.
    But the exterior images suggest that the building has already suffered catastrophic structural failure and is collapsing in on itself, so the Durham University authorities could always help it on its way and build something more appropriate on the site

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