Rothermere American


University of Oxford, UK






The Rothermere American Institute is a place of research, teaching and discussion: a forum for the exchange of ideas between visitors, academics and students. Lauded as “one of the most beautiful recent buildings in Oxford”1, the award winning project is conceived as a pavilion addressing a garden quadrangle between the new building and Mansfield College.


The garden is an extension of the building. The level of the garden was lowered to that of the moat around the Mansfield principal’s lodge. The new ground level allows the Institute’s four-storey mass to align with the parapet of the adjacent library.


The spacious library reading room is at the heart of the building design. It is a lofty, light-filled volume that overlooks the garden and serves both to identify the institute to the outside world and to provide a focus for the life within the building. Below, there are offices for visiting academics, seminar rooms, and a lecture hall.


The Rothermere American Institute is a modern interpretation of its neighbour, the Mansfield College library, a grade 1 listed neo-Gothic structure. Both buildings share a common organization, with the library set atop a plinth of teaching spaces; in both buildings, bay windows in the library become places for readers.


The institute is, with the exception of the rare books repository, naturally ventilated. Sophisticated thermal modelling underpins the excellent environmental performance of the building. Night air is drawn across the thermal mass of the structure to pre-cool the building. A glazed lantern draws air toward the centre of the plan, allowing excellent cross ventilation.


1(Oxford Libraries-Architectural History and Pictorial Record – Philip Opher 2004).


A project of

Kohn Pedersen Fox (International) PA

in which the following people at PLP Architecture were involved: David Leventhal was partner-in-charge; Jon Neville-Jones, project manager; Neil Merryweather, head model maker.



Oxford University



Library, Classrooms, Offices







"In a city where so much new architecture is either aggressively modernist or a mere pastiche of earlier styles, the Rothermere American Institute building represents the most successful fusion of the old with the new. Sympathetic to its setting, and with an accessible and comfortable environment within, it demonstrates a creative dialogue with the influence of the past which transmutes into something new. Hopefully this beautiful building will act as a model for future development in Oxford. We are very proud of it."

John Pinfold, RAI Librarian



2005 SCUP/AIA Excellence in Planning and Architecture Award

2003 Civic Trust Award

2003 RIBA Award

2002 Oxford Preservation Trust Award

2002 World Architecture Award Finalist
(Green Category)

2003 British Institute of Architectural Technologists Award