Blavantnik School of Government - Forum of Integrity
Blavantnik School of Government - Forum of Integrity

The Blavantnik School of Government at the University of Oxford is the United Kingdom’s first school of government. The project dedicates to the determined also supporting better government and public policy around the world. The school was founded in 2010. It is a gift from American industrialist and philanthropist Len Blavatnik. The stunning design was done by the famous architectural firm –  Herzog & de Meuron. The Swiss firm has interpreted the collaboration in elements of the design. It holds up a mission to teach governance in a way that strengthens communities. The circular shape shows the government and parliamentary buildings across the world and ideas of exchange, congregation, and communication.

Blavantnik School of Government - Forum of Integrity
Blavantnik School of Government


The project obtains on a two-stage design. This was based on the substitution of a new contract in place of the design team to Laing O’Rourke. It was completed in November 2015. Therefore, the main design feature of the building – the curve and forms fair-faced concrete – also proves to be one of the major challenges for the design and construction teams.  However, these challenges have been successfully met and the quality of the concrete finish is excellent. The project has extensive passive cooling measures. Also, the building provides a stable thermal environment through the use of low-velocity displacement ventilation, exposed thermal mass, high-performance facade, and ground source cooling. This is great architecture with a great character on aesthetics.

The floor layout of the forum level
Ground floor plan
First-floor plan
Second-floor plan
Blavantnik School of Government - Forum of Integrity
The design is aesthetical and functional


The school provides house teaching and academic spaces. The spatial organizations support the meetings, administration, research, and service areas, which are all connected by the Forum. The lower levels of the building provide large public and teaching programs. The upper levels provide academic and research programs that require a more quiet atmosphere for better focus and concentration. The construction work started in autumn 2013, after some controversy, and ended in late 2015.

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Moreover, students and faculty spaces overlook an outdoor terrace that is the Radcliff Observatory Quarter. Also, the school provides a varied range of teaching-space types from small flexible seminar rooms to larger, horseshoe-shaped teaching rooms. An irregular stack of cylindrical and horseshoe-shaped blocks makes up the curving glass form. This intends to resonate with the university’s Radcliffe Camera and the Sheldonian Theatre buildings. The lower levels house the large public and teaching programs which include a 200 seat auditorium. The academic and research programs which require a quieter atmosphere, are on the upper levels.

Blavantnik School of Government - Forum of Integrity
The curved form connects all layers of the building

The Geometry of Blavantnik School of Government

The design is series of shifted discs and pure geometric circles. These elements, inspired by the parameters of the site and plot boundaries. The shifting in floors creates overhangs and covered volumes. This reflects the principles of the master plan massing. Well, the mass of the building moved northwest towards the center of the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter site. The Architect has cleverly incorporated a central ‘hub’. This connects all parts of the building to reflect this vision. The building controls a combination of systems and technology. It helps minimize its environmental impact.

Blavantnik School of Government - Forum of Integrity
The disks and elliptical forms bring the functions together

Core of the Blavantnik School of Government

The forum is the heart of the building. This space penetrates through the school as a vertical public space joining all the levels and programs. The core gives openness, communication, and transparency to the building. The forum provides access between spaces and it also provides congregation, meeting, and social spaces.

The arrangement is like an auditorium or a concert hall. It has a series of interconnected terraces that step up from the ground floor all the way to the upper levels of the School. Each terrace could operate as a separate space. That is like as a study area or as part of one connected whole volume for a larger presentation. The Forum will be a space that allows and positively encourages communication and discussion, formal and informal, planned and accidental. The concept of the Forum in the interior sets a room-defining drive for the entire building. This circular hollow similarly defines the exterior appearance of the School. Its cylindrical shapes show analogies to government buildings and universities in different places all over the world.

Section of the building

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Materials used in Blavantnik School of Government

Herzog & de Meuron decided against replicating Oxford’s stately stone facades, in favor of concrete and glass.

Glass Panels – The building had rows of slender glass panels set into the faces of each of the curving volumes. The installation leads to echo the proportions of Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Also, a double-glazed window, which is Europe’s largest shows a view across the street to the Neo-Classical Oxford University Press building. Circular light wells bore through the decking to provide light-filled terraces. This is for the rows of glass offices for tutors on the floor below.

The glazed third floor offers a quieter space for research and individual offices

Concrete – The concrete balustrades that curl around the atrium coats a layer of white shredded paper.

Wood – A wooden terrace joins the students’ fifth-floor common room. It overlooks the rooftops of Oxford’s historic campus. This tops the school’s status as one of the city’s tallest buildings. The horseshoe-shaped lectures are set behind tubular batons of warm-toned oak. The forum wraps in mid-century-style, dark-stained oak paneling. In addition, it has an echo of the genteel and wood-paneled common rooms.

The rich material palette includes exposed concrete and dark-stained oak paneling


The staircase connects the ground-floor foyer and cafe with the basement. Also, this runs alongside a bank of the informal amphitheater. The seating is overlooking the base of the central well. The horseshoe-shaped lectures are set behind tubular batons of warm-toned oak.

A staircase that connects to all levels in the building

External facades of Blavantnik School of Government

The building has a series of shifted, glass-clad discs. Although, pure geometric circles break by a lively rectangular form on the first level. This positions and engages the building towards the main thoroughfare of Walton Street to the west.

An exterior view of the school

In 2015, the building describes as “the latest striking building nearing completion in Oxford”. Also, the school is designed by world-renowned architect Herzog & de Meuron. It provides a mixture of teaching and academic space. Moreover, the total of 7,500m² in an ideal building forms the new home for the Blavatnik school of government. The interior courtyard is so specific and unique in historic colleges. Lastly, it has become an internal forum inspired by parliamentary and governmental spaces,” said Herzog.

Also read: Mahatma Gandhi Labor Institute – by B. V. Doshi

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