Any of you who have passed through Oxford in the last 18 months (perhaps harder during the Pandemic than many of us would have liked) will have seen the gradual demolition and removal of the former Tinbergen Building, that housed Zoology and much of Biological Sciences Teaching for almost 50 years. Where the building stood is now a large open space, which has transformed the feeling of this corner of Oxford. Indeed, a satellite view on Google reveals the current vacant plot. Over the summer and early autumn, important preparatory work has been taking place, to enable construction to begin in early November 2021 for a completion date of late summer 2024.
At the same time, important new arrangements for the financing of the building have been put in place. The Life & Mind Building, as it will be known, is the first major building that will be constructed under a new £4Bn Joint Venture between Oxford University and Legal & General. The essence of this arrangement is that, rather than the capital to fund the building being provided from Oxford, it is provided by Legal & General, who then lease the building back to the University over a 60 year period, before ownership is transferred to Oxford. The same method of financing is intended to enable the construction of two thousand subsidised houses for staff and graduate students at Oxford. While this is a new approach for funding science buildings in Oxford, the detailed consultation and design work that has been done over the last two years means that Legal & General are constructing a building that exactly meets the needs identified by the academic departments to support transformative research and teaching environments for almost 2000 staff and students.
A formal ceremony to ‘break ground’ on the site (which took place on the space that was once the underground carpark) took place on 3 November 2021. Attended by the Vice Chancellor, Prof Louise Richardson, the CEO of Legal & General, Nigel Wilson and the Chair of Wates Group PLC, Sir James Wates, who have been appointed to the contract to build the Life & Mind Building, it was a welcome opportunity to thank the many hundreds of people who have contributed to bringing this project to this point. Within months the framework for the building will start to emerge, and I look forward to providing you with further updates as this exciting project progresses.