Masterplan for new library on public display

6 March 2007


RI_site_rafael_vinolyPlans for the development of the site of the former Radcliffe Infirmary as a central campus for the University of Oxford, to include a large Humanities Library, have gone on public display and have already attracted much media attraction.


The library will incorporate a number of smaller libraries around Oxford, including the English Faculty Library in Manor Road, the Philosophy Library in Merton Street and the Theology Faculty Library in St Giles’. This is part of Oxford University Libraries’ plan to provide better services by concentrating similar resources in larger centres. The first combined library, the Social Science Library in Manor Road, was opened in 2004, and the Radcliffe Science and Hooke Libraries in Parks and South Parks Roads are currently being redeveloped to form one science lending library.


The masterplan is not a detailed design but suggests ways in which the site could be developed over a long period. It is envisaged by the architect Rafael Viñoly that the library will be on two levels underground, lit by daylight from a sunken garden. The focal point of the whole site is the neighbouring Grade I listed Radcliffe Observatory, which is part of Green College. The architect sees the library as being the ‘defining element’ that will link the other new buildings on the site. 


The site was bought by the University of Oxford in 2003 and vacated by the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust last month; part is being retained by the NHS for a Health Centre. The former hospital buildings, apart from those on Woodstock Road including the Triton fountain and St Luke’s Chapel, will be demolished to make way for the new campus. It is expected that the demolition will start in 2008 and that the first University building, a new Mathematical Institute, may be completed in mid-2010. A Humanities Building, together with the first phase of the Humanities Library, could be ready by mid-2011.


Oxford residents are invited to see the masterplan which is on show on 12 March at the University Museum, and on 20 March and 19 April at the Saïd Business School. All run from 11 am to 8 pm, with presentations from 1 to 2 pm. Included in the exhibition is a masterplan for the possible development of the University Science Area in South Parks Road and the ‘Keble Triangle’ on Parks Road and Banbury Road. 


The masterplan can also be seen online at  


Photo: Rafael Viñoly, the architect, points out on a model the site of the Humanities Library; the Radcliffe Observatory is at the bottom right.  


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