Rothermere American

Institute

University of Oxford, UK

The Rothermere American Institute is a dynamic hub of research, teaching and discussion: an inclusive forum for the exchange of ideas between visitors, academics and students. The award-winning project is conceived as a pavilion that faces out onto a new garden quadrangle and Mansfield College beyond. Its sensitive design has been lauded as “one of the most beautiful recent buildings in Oxford.”

 

The Institute is a modern interpretation of its neighbour, the Grade I listed neo-Gothic Mansfield College Library. Both buildings share a common organisation and feature the use of bay windows as intimate reading areas for students and faculty.

 

A lofty, light-filled library reading room forms the building’s heart. It overlooks a landscaped garden and serves to identify the institute to the outside world and provide focus for life within the building. Below, offices for visiting academics sit alongside seminar rooms and a lecture hall.

 

The building is largely naturally ventilated (the rare books library required climate control to ensure preservation of its contents). 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.

 

Outside, the garden has been conceived as an external extension of the building’s spaces. Its height was lowered to match that of the moat around the Mansfield Principal’s Lodge, and the new ground level allows the Institute’s four storeys to align with the parapet of the adjacent library. The traditional contract was relatively straightforward in execution, with the University as our client working closely with the project team and end users to develop a holistically appropriate building that was flexible and futureproofed for their needs.

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.

 

Client

Oxford University

 

Facility

Library, Classrooms, Offices

 

Size

2,500sqm

 

Status

Completed

“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

Awards

 

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

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