On the run up to the Stirling Prize, 2016, The Architect’s Journal takes a look into the six nominated buildings, with interviews from the architects.
“The Blavatnik School of Government will become a global centre of excellence for the study of government and public policy. The School’s aim is to teach the practice of government and leadership in ways which will strengthen communities, create opportunities and foster cooperation across the world. The School offers Oxford University a new way to contribute to the world” Blavatnik School of Government Brochure.
Such a vision requires a specific response and building.
Herzog & de Meuron’s starting point is from the inside, from the heart of the building, the Forum. This space cuts through the school as a vertical public space connecting all the levels and programs together into one whole. Central to a school of government is the idea of openness, communication and transparency, the central forum takes this principle literally by stitching all levels together. In the first instance the Forum provides access between spaces, but more importantly it provides congregation, meeting and social spaces. In Herzog & de Meuron’s proposal it’s arrangement is in many ways like that of an auditorium or a concert hall with a series of interconnected terraces that step up from the ground floor all the way to the upper levels of the School. Each terrace operates as a separate space, for example as a study area or as part of one connected whole volume for a larger presentation. The Forum is a space that allows, and positively encourages, communication and discussion, formal and informal, planned and accidental.
The Blavatnik School of Government houses teaching and academic spaces which are supported by meeting, administration, research and service areas which are all connected by the Forum. At its lower levels, the building houses large public and teaching programs. The upper levels are occupied by academic and research programs that require a more quiet atmosphere to foster focus and concentration. Crowning the School are student and faculty spaces, which overlook an outdoor terrace, the Radcliff Observatory Quarter and the whole of Oxford beyond. The School offers a wide range of teaching-space types from small flexible seminar rooms to larger, horseshoe-shaped teaching rooms.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2016