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Design contest on the cards as Oxford Uni lands £150m donation

Contest site in the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter
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The University of Oxford is considering a design competition following its largest private donation since the Renaissance

Yesterday the historic university announced it had received a £150 million donation to create a new combined humanities centre and Institute for Ethics in Artificial Technology.

The landmark complex will be named the Schwarzman Centre after its benefactor, Stephen A Schwarzman, founder of Blackstone, the world’s largest alternative asset management and financial services firm.

The new centre will be constructed on the last vacant plot within the university’s Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, which already features Herzog & de Meuron’s Blavatnik School of Government and a Mathematics Institute by Rafael Viñoly.

A spokesperson for the university confirmed a design contest for the Schwarzman Centre was ‘likely’. Details are expected to be announced later this year.

The new building will bring together Oxford’s programmes in English; history; linguistics, philology and phonetics; medieval and modern languages; music; philosophy; and theology and religion in one site, along with a new library.

The complex aims to ‘encourage experiential learning and bold experimentation through cross-disciplinary and collaborative study’. An Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence will be included along with performing arts and exhibition venues.

Louise Richardson, vice-chancellor of the university, said: ‘The new Schwarzman Centre will open a vibrant cultural programme to the public and will enable Oxford to remain at the forefront of both research and teaching while demonstrating the critical role the Humanities will play in helping human society navigate the technological changes of the 21st century.’

Schwarzman said: ‘I’m proud to partner with Oxford to establish the Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities which will unite Oxford’s Humanities faculties for the first time, include a new Institute for Ethics in AI to explore crucial questions affecting the workplace and society, and in addition offer modern performing arts facilities that will deepen Oxford’s engagement with the public.’

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