Planning permission has been granted by Oxford City Council for two of the most significant buildings on Oxford University’s Radcliffe Observatory Quarter (ROQ) – one of the biggest development projects the University has undertaken for more than a century.
The new buildings – a Mathematical Institute building, designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects, and a Humanities Building and Library, designed by Bennetts Associates – will provide cutting-edge research and teaching facilities and, in both subject areas, bring together in one place a number of centres and faculties that are currently scattered around the city.
The ROQ is a 10-acre site in central Oxford, bound by the Woodstock Road, Somerville College, Walton Street, Observatory Street, and Green Templeton College, and will accommodate new teaching and learning space for the University over the next 20 years.
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Planning and Resources) and Chair of the ROQ Board, Professor Anthony Monaco said: 'The University is delighted that planning permission has been granted for these two new buildings.
'These projects form the core of our vision for this site, offering state-of-the-art facilities for research and teaching that will greatly benefit faculty and students. The fantastic designs by both architects provide new avenues through the site, exciting gardens and squares, all with views of the Radcliffe Observatory.'
Rafael Viñoly Architects’ new Mathematical Institute building will be the main workplace for more than 500 academics and support staff, as well as the centre for the academic life of approximately 1,000 undergraduates and a diverse community of college research fellows and lecturers.
The scheme provides the opportunity to accommodate the growing population of the Mathematical Institute – who currently work in three separate locations – in a modern, high performance building that respects and enhances the setting of the adjoining historic buildings.
Rafael Viñoly said: 'We are delighted to receive planning approval on our proposals for the Mathematical Institute building. Our proposals result from the resolute commitment of Oxford University, Oxford City Council officers, English Heritage representatives and regional design review panels, who were all intensively involved from the start of the design process. Our joint efforts have paid-off and generated an architectural solution that engages and complements this complex historical site. Working with the Mathematical Institute, chaired by Nick Woodhouse, has been a most inspiring experience – we look forward to delivering their new academic research and teaching facilities.'
Professor Alex Halliday, Head of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division at Oxford, said: 'We have the UK's top-ranked mathematics department. We have attracted to Oxford some outstanding mathematicians, a growing body of students, among the highest research grant income in the world for this subject and a glittering array of awards. This splendid building will now allow us to take advantage of this success and provide the working environment for this subject to flourish. It is a fantastic opportunity for the University, the city and the UK.’
Landon and Lavinia Clay are major benefactors to the Mathematical Institute and support from other donors is being sought for the new building. Lavinia Clay said: ‘We are delighted to be supporting the new Institute building and are very pleased that planning permission has been secured. The Mathematical Institute building will provide an inspiring working environment for students and faculty alike and will help to underline the importance and relevance of mathematics to future generations.’
The new Humanities Building and Library, designed by Bennetts Associates, will form the centrepiece of the ROQ development. The first phase brings together four faculties – English, History, Theology and Philosophy – and will provide state of the art library and teaching facilities as well as research, administrative space and academic offices.
Rab Bennetts, Director of Bennetts Associates, said: ‘Our intention has been to create a group of complementary buildings that echo the grain and texture of Oxford. The backdrop of faculty buildings provides the setting for two new ‘quads’, with the library lantern as the counterpoint to the Grade 1 listed Radcliffe Observatory. We are delighted to receive planning consent and look forward to receiving the go ahead for construction.’
Head of Humanities, Professor Sally Shuttleworth, said: ‘The Humanities Division is excited by this development which will bring together on an integrated site, small libraries, academic faculties and research projects that are currently scattered about the city. We hope that it will make a considerable contribution to the life of the city and plan to offer many lectures, performances and events which will be open to the general public.’
Other developments on the ROQ site have already been granted planning permission. This includes the refurbishment of the Grade II* 18th century Radcliffe Infirmary building and St Luke's Chapel; the remodelling and refurbishment of the Grade II former Outpatients' building; three new buildings at Somerville College, along the wall that the College shares with the ROQ site; and a new east/west link for pedestrians and cyclists, connecting Walton Street with Woodstock Road and available for the public to use.