Foundation ceremony for new university humanities centre

Aaron Akugbo at the foundation ceremony <i>(Image: Photo: Oxford University)</i>
Aaron Akugbo at the foundation ceremony (Image: Photo: Oxford University)

A new centre for humanities has been launched at Oxford University as a ceremony took place with artistic performances to mark the occasion.

Spoken word poetry, song and parkour performances took place at the building site for the Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities  marking two years until the building is completed.

The centre will boost research and teaching in the humanities at Oxford University 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.

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It has been made possible by a £175m gift from Mr Schwarzman, who is the chairman, chief executive and co-founder of the Blackstone investment firm.

The ceremony was held at the Radcliffe Obervatory Quarter site on Tuesday, and building work will continue until the centre is finished in the summer of 2025.

Oxford Mail: Aaron Akugbo
Oxford Mail: Aaron Akugbo

To date, construction has involved more than 10,000 linear metres of piles to build the foundations – taller than Mount Everest when stacked end-to-end.

Those who attended the ceremony included Oxford residents, cultural partners and university staff.

The performances were produced and promoted by the Cultural Programme, which puts on a diverse series of live and online events.

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Professor Dan Grimley, head of humanities at Oxford University, said: "The foundation ceremony was marked with some brilliant performances, which reflects the exciting cultural programming that will enliven the new building, for the benefit of everyone living in and around Oxford.”

When the building is completed, many of its venues will be brought to life by performances from the Cultural Programme, which is part of the Humanities Division at the University of Oxford.

The programme aims to welcome audiences and communities into the heart of the research process at Oxford University through public engagement.

Oxford Mail: Stephen Schwarzman
Oxford Mail: Stephen Schwarzman

At the ceremony, the cultural programme launched its new look and a vision to bring together audiences from across the city, region and world.

It announced:

• Everything is Connected, a programme of environmentally-focused events and performances in October and November 2023.

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• A new website and brand as part of a campaign called “Oxford Is” which aims to place the Cultural Programme at the heart of the university and wider city of Oxford.

As part of the season, residents and visitors in Oxford will be invited to 'experience the air' of five major cities in Michael Pinsky’s Pollution Pods art installation.

John Fulljames, director of the Cultural Programme at Oxford University, said: “Everything is Connected is all about bringing people together for shared experiences.

"Oxford has such a rich cultural life and, by launching this season and our new website, we want to provide a platform to showcase and uplift all that our cultural partners have to offer."

Oxford Mail: Stephen Schwarzman, right, in Oxford
Oxford Mail: Stephen Schwarzman, right, in Oxford

The environmental theme connects back to the Schwarzman Centre building, which has been designed sustainably in keeping with the university’s commitment to reduce its environmental impact.

The site is being powered entirely by electricity and recycled vegetable oil, and the building will have heat pumps, high levels of insulation, and promote of biodiversity through green spaces.

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Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

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