In the secluded and ancient grounds of Worcester College, overlooking the college cricket pitch, stands the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre, a beautifully crafted stone and oak pavilion.
In the secluded and ancient grounds of Worcester College, overlooking the college cricket pitch, stands the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre, a beautifully crafted stone and oak pavilion. It is carefully positioned to enhance this idyllic setting and engage with neighbouring buildings, but also fulfils the college’s need for more teaching space. Above all, to quote the RIBA Award citation, ‘It is the natural materials, superbly honed, that ground the building and make it belong. It is the architectural design – the timeless pursuit of ordering space and light and form – that makes it a thing of pure joy.’
Níall McLaughlin Architects has carefully integrated the new building with the college’s existing buildings alongside, in particular MacCormac Jamieson Prichards’ 1980s Sainsbury Building, which backs on to Worcester Place and includes a gatehouse entrance to the college grounds. The architect has created a new open court next to the Sainsbury Building, framing a view of the college lake and the new bridge to the cricket ground, which leads to the main entrance of the the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre. The single storey interior spaces are lofty and flooded with daylight; they comprise a large lecture theatre/auditorium, an informal ‘e-hub’ student learning space, two seminar rooms, a dance studio, and kitchen, server and toilets, all arranged around a generous foyer. To avoid flooding from the river and college lake close by, the building is raised on a podium above the flood plain. Its dominant south-west elevation, looking out over the cricket pitch, is a symmetrical composition – a wide central set of steps leading up to a terrace flanked by two seminar rooms, their windows framed with tall fins of Clipsham stone.
The terrace is shaded by a pergola of delicate Siberian larch slats and is backed by tall glazed oak doors which lead to the foyer. The auditorium is a quarter circle segment in plan, creating a curved form defined by a series of tall fins, also of Clipsham stone, with full height oak doors between them. The doors can be folded back flush into them, allowing auditorium and foyer to form one seamless space. The fins rise above the roof to create a glass clerestory, with blinds integrated into all glazed openings.
Throughout the building, the materials used – timber, stone and glass – have been designed and crafted with exemplary care, achieving a quality for which it has won many awards and reached the Stirling Prize shortlist.