Niall McLaughlin Architects designed the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre as a new multi-purpose auditorium for the University of Oxford's Worcester College, who had an urgent need for its teaching facilities. Completed last January, the Centre is currently shortlisted for the 2018 RIBA Stirling Prize. It was an arduous process to bring the project to life, and the result is “a building of extraordinary elegance”, the prize jury commented.
Located on an idyllic garden on the historic campus, the building had to be one of “assured grace and calm”, the jury writes. With a relatively small internal area of 846 m² (approx. 9,106 sq.ft.), it contains a large lecture theatre, a student learning space, seminar rooms, a dance studio, and ancillary facilities arranged around a central foyer that opens onto a stepped terrace.
Every space has high ceilings and is naturally lit, and is designed “to the most exacting tolerances and standards, and every part fits together sweetly — from the radial brick pavers to the curved seats and huge oak doors of the auditorium up to the spaces themselves, formally arranged as discrete stone forms around which the forum flows,” the jury writes.
The building is classical in spirit, with crisp proscenia and a slender stone stoa along the cricket pitch facade. But details like smooth planes of stone and glass and minimal details all make it uncompromisingly modern — and yet, the building still fits in with its quiet location.
“It is surprisingly traditional in its craftedness, relying on stonemasons, plasterers and joiners at the very top of their game. It is the natural materials, superbly honed, that ground the building and make it belong. It is the architectural design — the timeless pursuit of ordering space and light and form — that makes it a thing of pure joy.”
All photos courtesy of 2018 RIBA Stirling Prize.
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