The office of Zaha Hadid, the sometimes controversial and always bold Baghdad-born, London-based architect, has revealed design plans for a striking new building in the most traditional and affluent of places, Oxford.
The new composite-glass structure, to be named the Softbridge Building, is an extension to the Middle East Centre at St Anthony’s College. It will link the 66 and 68 Woodstock Road buildings, one a Victorian mock Tudor and the other Edwardian.
The new, concave, shiny structure looks like a modern sculpture that fell from the sky and wedged itself between the two sleepy oldies. The exuberant and dynamic Softbridge appears to have known that, against all odds, the old buildings will not buckle, the mature trees will not die and the limited space into which the newcomer must settle, will be just enough.
The Softbridge will house a lecture theatre and the library, taking pressure off the old, bursting-at-the-seams facilities. Other goals are to provide a better research environment for students and to connect the academic and public functions of the institute. The above-ground floors house the reception and exhibition areas, the main archive reading room, library storage and the main library. The lecture theatre and additional storage will be located in the basement.
The outspoken Hadid continues to produce bold design work, characterized by rounded shapes and unconventional approaches, in spite of the widely publicized controversies surrounding some of her buildings in Britain, including the Olympic Aquatic Centre. In an Oxford Times article, Hadid was quoted as saying, “As a woman, I’m expected to want everything to be nice and to be nice myself. A very English thing. I don’t design nice buildings. I don’t like them. I like architecture to have some raw, vital, earthy quality.”� By Tuija Seipell.