Zaha Hadid’s Middle East Centre at St. Antony’s

On a grim November day, as the rain poured down, Ertegun board member Eugene Rogan cheered a group of Scholars with a tour of the new ‘Investcorp Building’ of the Middle East Centre, which houses the Centre’s library and its important archive of private papers. Although in striking contrast with the brick and stone houses which surround it, the building, designed by Iraqi-born Zaha Hadid, of shining curved metal, sound-proof glass and pierced wood, is unquestionably a welcome new landmark on the Woodstock Road. To be taken round it by Professor Rogan was particularly interesting, since he was the main force behind its fundraising, planning and construction, and so was able to tell us not only about the functional and aesthetic ideas behind the design, but also about the complex business of obtaining planning permission for such a modern building in the heart of Victorian North Oxford. The Investcorp Building looks much larger from the inside than from the outside, with an impressive lecture-theatre and a beautiful open-plan reading room, and the technology used to build and maintain it is also worth checking out. Everyone should find a reason to visit this surprising ultramodern space in the centre of Oxford.

Mariana Losa E Ferreira De Castro