The new Investcorp Building for the Middle East Centre provides 1,127 square metres of additional floor space and a new 117-seat lecture theatre; doubling the space available for the Middle East Centre’s expanding library & archive, and providing optimum conditions to conserve and manage the centre’s collections that were previously stored in the basement of 66 Woodstock Road. The bridge-like design overcomes strong physical constraints to form a suspended link among the campus’ existing structures. the middle east centre holds oxford university’s primary collection on the modern middle east – a world-class archive of private papers and historic photographs used by scholars and researchers with an interest in the region.
Environmental Design Strategy
The objective for the environmental design strategy was to develop a space that was healthy and enjoyable, where both students and staff can develop and contribute to their maximum potential. With this in mind, the cooling strategy for the Lecture theatre included the area to be mechanically ventilated through a thermal labyrinth. This provided natural ground coupling for passive summertime temperature control.
Air is introduced under the seating and extracted at a high level, without depending on extensive energy systems. A similar strategy is used during the warmer months for the reading room. Serviced by ground coupling ventilation, this allows for passive summertime temperature control, making the space a comfortable environment for students. Great care was dedicated to the archive space. A ground source heat pump was incorporated into the design, providing active ground coupling.
The environment is controlled for both temperature and humidity, creating a secure setting protecting the prehistoric documents. With light being an important aspect of the design, daylighting was used via the roof lights. Light enters through the roof and into the main reading room creating a calm, approachable space. The aspiration was for a high performance, environmentally responsible building. Incorporating solidity and form, the area encourages people to stay exchange and learn.
Given the varied programme of the Middle East Centre – active foyer, library and reading room, auditorium, and administrative offices – there were a number of different acoustic considerations to be addressed. The over-arching strategy was the employment of unobtrusive acoustic treatments that effectively mitigated the transfer of noise and vibration. The tight confines of the site required the auditorium to be located in close proximity to the plant-room in the subterranean floor of the Centre.
Care was taken via a thick concrete separating wall and additional plaster board on the plant-room side of that wall to ensure undetectable acoustic intrusion. In the auditorium itself, a key element of acoustic absorption centred on the selection of the upholstered seats. Six different varieties that met the architect’s requirements for aesthetics were tested for appropriate acoustic properties before the best was selected. Ventilation ducts under the stage in the auditorium are linked to an underground labyrinth.
This passive air-cooling strategy mitigates the need for regular use of mechanical, and thus noisy, air-handling units. Elsewhere in the building, public spaces are dressed with beautiful timber slats that mask acoustically absorbing material behind them. The library and reading room are doubly blessed with the amenable acoustic properties inherently found in fully laden bookshelves. Given the bespoke nature of this beautiful building, great care was also taken in ensuring appropriate insulation against the noise generated by rainfall on the sloping roof.
Text by AKTII: Structural Engineers. AKTII was responsible for the structural design of the Investcorp Building. The new building will provide academic space for the existing department, consisting of archive storage, library, lecture hall and academic research areas. The project posed several challenges related to the design and coordination of a three-dimensional curved form located between two existing buildings and in close proximity to the protected sequoia tree. The building structure is made from in-situ reinforced concrete, with the exception of the roof, which has glulam timber as its main structural material.
The lecture hall located on the lower level is designed as a column-free space. The curved roof, covered by stainless steel cladding, is the main feature of the building. Its fluid form covers the entire footprint as well as partially cantilevering over the external pavement. An orthogonal pattern was adopted to support the steel cladding as it was the most effective approach in terms of support, forming an array of straight frames that change dimensionally according to the building’s form.
The curved nature of the building presented several challenges for coordination of the structure with architecture and M&E services. In order to overcome this challenge AKTII implemented BIM technology, which allowed structural elements to be accurately positioned and coordinated within a three-dimensional curved envelope. This project provides a very good example of how contemporary construction and architecture can be executed within a space framed by traditional architecture. Source by Zaha Hadid Architects.
Location: Oxford, United Kingdom
Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects
Project Director (ZHA): Jim Heverin
Project Associates (ZHA): Johannes Hoffmann; Ken Bostock
Project Architect (ZHA): Alex Bilton
Project Team (ZHA): Sara Klomps, Goswin Rothenthal, Andy Summers, George King, Luke Bowler, Barbara Bochnak, Yeena Yoon, Saleem A Jalil, Theodora Ntatsopoulou, Mireira Sala Font, Amita Kulkarni, (Director: Eugene Rogan)
Structural Engineer: AKTII
Mechanical/Electrical/Acoustic Engineer: Max Fordham
Façade Supplier: Frener + Reifer
Façade Consultants: Arup Façade Engineering
Lighting Design: Arup Lighting
Cost Consultants: Sense Cost Ltd.
Fire Engineers: Arup Fire
Planning Supervision: Jppc Oxford
Forestry & Arboriculture Consultant: Sarah Venner
Access: David Bonnet
Landscape Design: Gross Max
CDM: Andrew Goddard Associates
Client: Middle East Centre, St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford
Program: Archives (paper and photographic), Auditorium (117 seats, with additional wheelchair spaces), Rolling stacks (2,200 sqm of linear storage), Library reading room (26 desks), Archive reading room (8 desks), Gallery (seating for 28)
Area: overall site 1,580 sqm
Gross internal area: 1,127 sqm
Building footprint: 700 sqm
Maximum external height: up to 13m
Photographs: Luke Hayes, Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects