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Schwarzman Centre reaches construction milestone with commencement ceremony

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Oxford University’s Schwarzman Centre reaches construction milestone with commencement ceremony
Oxford University’s Schwarzman Centre reaches construction milestone with commencement ceremony

Oxford University’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities has reached an important construction milestone with a commencement ceremony on 18 November 2022.

The Schwarzman Centre construction commencement ceremony represents an important milestone in the single biggest capital project ever carried out at Oxford University. It marks the conclusion of preparatory construction work and clearance of the site for the main construction to begin.

The Centre, which is expected to be completed in 2025, will boost teaching and research in the humanities at the University of Oxford and provide them with a new home which brings together seven faculties, the Institute for Ethics in AI, the Oxford Internet Institute, and a new humanities library. 

It has been made possible by a £175 million gift from Stephen A. Schwarzman, the Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder of Blackstone, one of the world’s leading investment firms. This is the largest donation in the University’s history.

The ceremony included speeches by Mr Schwarzman; Professor Dame Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford; and Lord Patten of Barnes, Chancellor of the University of Oxford.

Mr Schwarzman said: “I’m incredibly proud and excited to see the new Centre for the Humanities come to life. It will benefit Oxford students, faculty and the community for years to come and help Oxford best apply its global leadership in the Humanities to some of the most pressing questions of the 21st Century.”

The Centre will house a full suite of high-quality exhibition and performance spaces, allowing public audiences to engage more deeply with the University. 

It will be a model for the essential role of the humanities in helping the world to confront some of the most pressing questions and challenges it faces today. It will be a building that invites the widest range of audiences inside and will feature

  • Major new performance venues, including a 500-seat concert hall, a 250-seat theatre and a 100-seat Black Box space for creating and delivering experimental performances.
  • Exhibitions, lectures and performances that will bring Oxford’s research to wide audiences through the new Humanities Cultural Programme.
  • A schools and public engagement centre that will bring schoolchildren in Oxfordshire into contact with Humanities research and researchers.
  • New access routes and landscaping to open up and connect the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter and the surrounding area.
  • A café and other meeting spaces that will be open to the public and accessible without having to pass through a security barrier.

The Centre has already had a significant impact in its early years, and recent developments include:

  • The appointment of John Fulljames as the Director of the Humanities Cultural Programme (HCP). He was previously Director of Opera at the Royal Danish Opera and Royal Danish Orchestra. The HCP has already reached more than 700,000 people with its programme of events so far.
  • The growth of the Institute for Ethics in AI to a team of over ten researchers who regularly release innovative research on the ethical considerations of AI, which in turn is shaping the wider conversation on this critical issue. The Institute’s researchers are also teaching a course on the topic to Oxford University undergraduates and hold regular public events, including a lecture in May 2022 by Demis Hassabis, Founder and CEO of DeepMind.
  • The erection of visually compelling hoardings around the construction site on Oxford’s Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, which tell the story of Oxford Humanities and the building so far, and the establishment of a newsletter to keep local residents and other interested parties informed throughout the construction process.

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