Saïd Business School Phase I, Oxford

Placed on the site of the old railway sidings, the business school forms two new urban spaces for Oxford – a square in front of the station, and a new place of arrival for those coming from the west along the Botley Road under the railway bridge. The school builds to its boundaries and forms its own interior world, a modern equivalent of the traditional Oxford colleges. The so-called Harvard lecture style rooms form the core of the teaching arrangements, with complementing seminar rooms, library and research rooms.

The hypostyle entrance hall leads to two double height cloisters, one open and the other enclosed. The two cloisters define the central courtyard (30 by 60 metres) and lead to the student common room and the walled garden beyond. This sequence, leading from the busy world of the Botley Road to the tranquillity of the school’s interior, forms the essential, symmetrical, and ideal armature of the school. To the west at ground floor the lecture rooms insulate the interior from the noise and distraction of the station forecourt. Above, single-storey courtyards are enclosed by professors’ rooms. To the east, two-storey courtyards are enclosed by seminar rooms. Forming the head of the composition is the vaulted reading room of the library, positioned above the entrance hall. The central courtyard is closed by the amphitheatre, which becomes part of the general circulation at first floor level.

Business schools have many small rooms and a few large common rooms and lecture theatres. The character of the school depends on how these various rooms are connected. The need for chance encounters suggests a peripatetic pattern, and circulation in its various forms – cloister / courtyard, staircase and hall – becomes an extension of the learning process.