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The Investcorp Building for Oxford University’s Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College

The Investcorp Building for Oxford University’s Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College was unveiled and named the Investcorp Building. The £11 million building was commissioned by St Antony’s College to provide much-needed space for its Middle East Centre.

Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar was the event’s keynote speaker. Sheikha Moza is chair of the Qatar Foundation, an education development and scientific research organisation, as well as the UNESCO Special Envoy for Basic and Higher Education since 2003.

The Middle East Centre holds Oxford University’s primary collection on the modern Middle East, a world-class archive of private papers and historic photographs used by scholars and researchers with an interest in the region. The centre’s research core is the specialised library, document and photographic archive covering material from the 1800’s onwards. The archive was set up in 1961 and has grown to over 400 collections of private papers and holds more than 100,000 historic photographs.

The new Investcorp Building for the Middle East Centre provides 1,127 square metres of additional floor space and a new 117-seat lecture theatre; doubling the space available for the centre’s expanding library & archive, and providing optimum conditions to conserve and manage the centre’s collections that were previously stored in the basement of 66 Woodstock Road. The new lecture theatre will enable the centre to expand its popular programme of seminars, lectures and debates – much of which is open to both the University and the general public.

Mr Nemir Kirdar, Investcorp’s Executive Chairman and CEO, commented: ‘From the outset, Investcorp’s mission has been broader than effecting mere financial transactions. We have also made it our goal to promote higher education and cross-cultural understanding.  Oxford’s Middle East Centre was established to become a bridge between the West and the Middle East, and Investcorp could not be more proud to do our part to further this worthy cause.’

Director of the Middle East Centre, Dr Eugene Rogan, said: ‘As one of Britain’s most acclaimed architects, with roots firmly in the Middle East, Zaha Hadid was the ideal choice for this project. Her history parallels our vision of Oxford’s Middle East Centre as a British centre of excellence with deep roots in the region. With this new building, the Middle East Centre enters a new era as one of the world’s finest research facilities on this area of crucial public interest.’

The Invescorp Building complements the college’s ongoing development. Its design weaves through the restricted site at St Antony’s College to connect and incorporate the existing protected buildings and trees; while its stainless steel façade softly reflects natural light to echo the building’s context.

The building integrates new academic and research facilities within a design defined by the existing built and natural environment of the college. The project maintains the detached character of the college’s current buildings, allowing them to be read as separate elements, while introducing a contemporary building that conveys the past, present and future evolution of the college, university and city.