Softbridge Building, Oxford University

Where a radical vision meets a pragmatic solution

It may have one of the smallest footprints of any of BAM’s projects over the past decade, but the Zaha Hadid-designed ‘Softbridge’ building involved immense vision and huge challenges.

An iconic extension to the Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College, Oxford University was built, thanks to an £11 million donation from investment firm Investcorp.

Project details

  • Customer: St Antony’s College, Oxford
  • Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects
  • Structural engineer: AKT II
  • M&E engineer: Max Fordham
  • Value: £10.8m

View related projects

The three-storey, 1,200m2 building houses a library, archive and lecture theatre.

Beyond its practical function, it hascreate a distinctive landmark on Oxford’s architectural landscape. A sinuous, softly reflective steel-clad form, seemingly floating, suspended between its Victorian and Edwardian neighbours.

Building bridges

Translating Hadid’s concept into practical reality involved the BAM team in some fundamental value engineering, tempered with a good dose of diplomacy and flexibility.

BAM had to trim some £4.5 million from the budget without compromising the complex, visually seamless curves and high specification finishes. 

At the same time, the team dealt with the practicalities of a restricted site, working ultra-close to the foundations of listed buildings, around a protected Californian Sequoia tree and over an underground stream.

As BAM’s Construction Manager Anthony Nagle told the CM newsletter: “My approach was always to say ‘you can have your vision on a piece of paper, or you can have a significant part of your vision standing as a real building in Oxford, you’re not going to get both within the budget’. In the end we arrived at a solution everyone was happy with.”