Worcester College – Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre

Worcester College

Lecture theatre, dance studio, seminar rooms, foyer and study space (Niall McLaughlin, 2017)

“It has taken time, unstinting application from the client and the procurement team, a generous donor prepared to cover the eye-watering build cost, a building team capable of the highest levels of craftsmanship and an architectural team capable of the very highest design quality.” architecture.com

Sultan Nazrin Shah Building

This is essentially a conference centre: the 136 seat auditorium, spacious foyer and seminar rooms meet the now standard requirement for a conference facility-cum useful extras for college life (with a dance studio as a bonus). In any case, the college markets the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre as “a brand new conference centre”, something that might be expected to be rather dull and corporate. Yet with generous sponsorship, and impressive talent, the architect and construction team have contrived to insert an elegant and beautifully crafted piece of architecture into the charming setting of Worcester College’s extensive and delightful grounds, where the new building is perfectly positioned to overlook the cricket pitch. An artificial lake has been extended beside a terrace to group the Centre with the nearby Sainsbury Building (McCormac Jamieson and Prichard, 1984), the College’s other modern treasure.

The single-storey building takes the form of an elongated box, with tapered fins forming columns along the principal facade, crowned by the clerestory windows of the fan-shaped lecture theatre. While the design shows some Classical influences, it is both strikingly contemporary and an exemplar of the refined style of the McLaughlin office. Finely crafted Clipsham stone and extensive use of oak has created an elegant and luxurious interior, a feast for the senses. This is perhaps the most accomplished work in Oxford for many years.

Awards: OPT Award 2017; RIBA South and RIBA National Awards, 2018; short-listed for Sterling Prize, 2018

References: Rob Wilson, ‘High ordinary’, AJ, 00038466, 1/11/2018, Vol 245 (1)

Walton Street OX1 2HB (not readily seen from outside the College grounds)

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