Oxford, United Kingdom
John McAslan + Partners has been commissioned by one of the world’s leading business schools, the Saïd Business School at The University of Oxford, to transform the currently unoccupied Osney Power Station into the school’s new Global Leadership Center, setting new standards for sustainable design without compromising on distinctive architectural and programmatic details.
For its commitment to innovation and sustainable technology, Global Leadership Centre, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford has recently been awarded a 2022 International Architecture Award by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.
Located on the banks of the River Thames in Central Oxford, Osney Power Station was the city’s first electrical power plant, open from 1892 until 1968.
It was acquired by the University in 1969 and until 2010, operated as a research laboratory for the Department of Engineering Science, where researchers performed cutting-edge experimentation in hypersonic and turbomachinery.
The £60 million project will now transform the Victorian power station into a world-leading residential learning complex for business leaders.
The interventions will produce state-of-the-art teaching facilities and a 120-bedroom boutique residential wing within the vast shell of the 19th-century building.
The riverside setting creates a unique opportunity for adaptive reuse, creating an enclave, which is both part of the urban Oxford scene while being suitably distinct and tranquil.
The scheme reflects Saïd Business School and Oxford University’s position as one of the world’s top-rated institutions and compliments the hallowed and historic fabric of Oxford.
The design harnesses the existing building’s distinctive characteristics, ensuring the powerful internal volume of the Power Station is retained as an open ‘agora’—a vibrant collegiate quad at the heart of the facility for the interaction and exchange of ideas, while the residential amenities celebrate the exterior setting of the landscape, enhancing the external aspect and optimizing views.
It is these vibrant ‘marketplaces’ that will celebrate the diversity of the student’s cultural and educational specializations, facilitating the cross-fertilization of ideas, stimulating learning and development, and promoting a real sense of community.
The key design move will open up the old turbine halls to create a single, highly evocative volume with upper levels and adjoining wings containing the high-quality residential accommodation, as well as opportunities for social space, break-out meeting spaces, and areas for informal study.
The design of Saïd Business School’s new Global Leadership Center is wholly transformational–an architectural intervention that produces executive education in an internationally communicative, functionally flexible, and place-sensitive environment.
In short, a memorable world-class building that serves the development of world-class leadership.
The school wishes to create an environment that not only facilitates the delivery of traditional taught leadership developing programs for executives from all sectors, but that also considers how such programs might be taught twenty to thirty years into the future.
In everything that is associated with the project, the focus has been on innovation, flexibility, and the delivery of world-class design.
Professor Peter Tufano, Dean of the Saïd Business School, comments: “John McAslan + Partners’ proposals show great vision: the practice’s interpretation of the brief effectively combines the existing historic fabric and world-class contemporary design.”
The building is being adapted focusing on a ‘Fabric First’ approach and Passivhaus principles.
These measures include maximizing the benefits of improving the building envelope by using a high-performance envelope with U-values in excess of regulation requirements and greatly improved airtightness, targeting 3.0m3/h.m2 in the newer parts of the building.
The building will be mechanically ventilated with high-efficiency PassivHaus certified heat recovery Air Handling Units used to recover energy from extracted air, whilst openable windows will be provided at perimeter zones to provide additional fresh air.
In addition, the building will maximize on-site renewable energy generation by including a high-efficiency roof-mounted solar PV array.
The landscape also plays a key role in connecting the new Business School with the surrounding townscape, safeguarding, and celebrating the surrounding nature and riverscape character.
Project: Global Leadership Centre, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
Architects: John McAslan + Partners
Project Director: Katherine Watts
General Contractor: Graham Construction Ltd.
Client: Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
Photographers: John McAslan + Partners and Nik van Herpt