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Hopkins wins contest for Oxford University £150m humanities complex

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Hopkins Architects has won an invited competition to design a £150 million humanities complex for Oxford University

The practice was chosen ahead of bids thought to have been drawn up by WilkinsonEyre and Stanton Williams.

In June last year, the university announced it had received a £150 million pledge – its largest private donation since the Renaissance – to create a 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.

It 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.

Blavatnik JimStephenson 11 LoRes

Blavatnik JimStephenson 11 LoRes

The Blavatnik School of Government in Oxford

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, which will also include 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.

Oxford University professor and head of humanities Karen O’Brien said: ‘We were impressed by Hopkins’ track record in creating world-class arts and educational institutions, designing beautiful buildings in sensitive historic settings and their commitment to creating environmentally sustainable buildings.

‘In the coming months, their architects will meet regularly with our students and staff to develop an initial design for the building. Later in the year, we will present that design to the public and seek their feedback before Oxford City Council considers our planning proposal.

‘Our aim is to create a building which becomes a treasured resource for the whole of Oxford, where anyone can come to enjoy high-quality performances, exhibitions and lectures. We are committed to making this centre – and the landscaped spaces around it –  accessible and welcoming to all. People can interact with the Schwarzman Centre long before the building is completed. We have already started a programme of cultural events, which will include a month-long series of activities on the site of the future building in April and May.’

The competition was organised by the RIBA’s competitions office and the project is planned to open in 2024/25.

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