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The only way is up.

27 Sep 23 | The Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre

Fifty-five steps down into the hole and here we are, standing on the concrete base that will become the new concert hall in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities.

One of the joys of being part of a new team, involved in a new project, is seeing something extraordinary happen.  It is a privilege to part of this new story for the University of Oxford.

Just days ago, we celebrated an important milestone, reaching the lowest point in the site. From that point onwards we will see the building start to grow, and the only way is up.

Today we are headed down to the lower floor where the concert hall, theatre, black box, and rehearsal spaces will be located. The entire basement slab is created as 18 pieces of work and we are watching concrete pour number 5 out of 18. Steve from Laing O’Rourke shares the facts and his enthusiasm in infectious.  I can’t write it all down fast enough:

We stand in the viewing centre watching a continuous pour of hot concrete into a hopper. They started today at 7 pm and end at 5 pm.  During this time a radio-controlled boom arm discharges a progressive and continuous stream onto the base of the site. The trick is to make sure the concrete looks as if it’s all been poured at the same time.  They really are magicians.

We watch quietly, in awe, as the trucks, hoppers and team perform their task in sequence like dancers in a carefully choreographed routine.  The cranes, tall and imposing, pose in beautiful symmetry, quietly watching the performance.

As we snap back to reality, someone asks ‘where does all the earth go?”  The answer? 80000 tonnes of earth have been taken to soil recycling centre in Kidlington.  It’s all part of a considered environmental strategy that forms part of the build.

Next it was time to head inside the new centre.   After a quick demonstration, we each put on the VR headset and explored the spaces.   It was my first-time using VR and I’m glad I was warned not to move my head too quickly. Within seconds I forgot where I was and explored the concert hall. In my virtual world I was able to move around the auditorium and look up and around in all directions.  It felt like I was there except one thing was missing.  The audience.  Nothing can simulate the feeling of being of being part of an audience, just before a performance starts.

Over the coming year, while the building takes shape, the Cultural Programme will be building partnerships, meeting our community and creating extraordinary events.

OXFORD iS getting ready!

27 Sep 23

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