Blavatnik building work is under way

thisisoxfordshire: An artist’s impression of the Blavatnik School of Government building which will begin to take shape next year An artist’s impression of the Blavatnik School of Government building which will begin to take shape next year

WORK is gathering pace on the construction of a prominent new building in North Oxford.

Builders are working on the foundations of the Blavatnik School of Government building which will begin rising from the ground next year.

The building, which has been controversial because of its design, is due to open in about 18 months’ time.

School spokesman Alison Stibbe said the process of clearing and levelling the site in Walton Street would finish by the end of January.

She said: “Work to prepare the ground for the new building is progressing on timetable.

“We are looking forward to seeing the school rise from good foundations in 2014.”

The modern design of the building caused controversy when it was unveiled.

The 22.5m-high building flouts the city council’s guideline that no building within 1,200m of Carfax can be taller than 18.2m. But work is now ploughing on and the main structural work for the building will begin in spring 2014.

Builders have already installed the sheet and concrete piling for the school’s foundations and at the moment the area of the plot is being dug out.

Earlier this year archaeologists exhumed bodies which were buried at the site when it was used as the Radcliffe Infirmary’s burial ground.

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In the early part of next year, work will begin installing the ground source heat pumps that will help regulate the building’s temperature in what organisers say will be an environmentally sustainable way.

The school says its building will allow it to carry out all activities on one site and says the design of the structure respects its surroundings, but does not seek to mimic them.

But the building has been controversial and there have been concerns about whether it fits in with its surroundings opposite the historic Oxford University Press building and next door to the former St Paul’s Church – now Freud’s bar.

David Freud, owner of the bar, took the issue to the High Court in a bid to have a judicial review over Oxford City Council’s decision to give the building permission.

The Blavatnik School of Government was set up by a £75m donation from American billionaire Leonard Blavatnik.

Jericho Residents’ Association vice-chairman Jenny Mann said: “People are still concerned about the size and scale of the building, which is going to loom over Jericho and be lit up like a lantern.”

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