John Radcliffe Hospital – Wolfson Building

The Wolfson Centre for the Prevention of Stroke and Dementia and the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, University of Oxford

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Forming part of the John Radcliffe Hospital complex in Oxford, and bounding an adjacent conservation area, the Wolfson Centre extends from a constrained and sloped site, affording expansive views of the city and surroundings.


Expressed as two linear rectangular forms staggered to articulate the H-shape floor plan, the primary spaces are organised on either side of a circulation and service spine that incorporates the stairs, lift, shared facilities, amenities, and meeting rooms. Horizontal circulation is terminated at both ends with glazed portals to capture views and offer engagement with its urban context. This layout is symbolic of the collaborative relationship between the two departments that are housed within.

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Befitting its research and the importance of engagement with the natural environment in the promotion of health, the forms are clad in familiar and natural materials comprising modular, repetitive elements of earthy terracotta that reference the context and character of the site and its history as a quarry. Timber frames provide a complement to highlight and identify entrances.


The facade is arranged in various combinations to create a unique architectural pattern broken up by full height slot window apertures that introduce daylight and views deep into the building. The variation in the positioning of these windows articulates the façade and is arranged to relate to the position of the sun and local context. This sequence of windows also expresses the variety of internal spaces, creating a flexible module for both cellular office and open plan workstations providing space for researchers to meet, share ideas and train, supporting the various needs of the contemporary academic workplace.

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The project achieved BREEAM Excellent despite a constrained site, competing requirements and tight budget. An innovative solution for natural ventilation with acoustic buffering is incorporated within the reveals of the facade, ensuring the building is full of fresh air, and controlled natural light reinforcing the University’s commitment to sustainability, health and well-being.

The design approach was to create a Centre for Research that “reaches out from the earth”, proposing a low-lying landscape form linear building that sensitively respects its urban context adjacent to the Old Headington Conservation Area, and gently rises from a constrained and sloped site, to afford expansive views of the city and surroundings. The building’s forms are clad in familiar and natural materials comprising modular, repetitive elements of earthy terracotta that reference the context and character of the site and its former history as a quarry; with timber frames lining glazed apertures that provide a counterpoint to highlight and identify entrances. This sets a new benchmark within the hospital setting and the adjacent conservation area.


A considered materiality and biophilic design response strengthen the connection between nature recognising specifically that interaction with the natural environment can have a positive effect on people living with dementia

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John Radcliffe Hospital, Headley Way, Oxford OX3 9DU

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