NBBJ / Purcell appointed to design new home for the University of Oxford Institute of Digital Health

The adaptive reuse of the Gibson and Harkness buildings in the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter will provide a highly sustainable home for the newly established Oxford Institute of Digital Health.
Following an invited design competition, the University of Oxford has tasked internationally-renowned architecture practices NBBJ and Purcell to design a new home for the Oxford Institute of Digital Health (OIDH) within the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences.

The OIDH will be positioned on the site of the existing Gibson and Harkness buildings, which are to be retained and reused as part of the proposals, creating a high quality and sustainable space. NBBJ / Purcell are carefully working within the existing context, improving the setting of the Grade 1 listed Radcliffe Observatory.

The Institute is an interdisciplinary academic hub that will link with industry, health systems and governments to provide digital solutions to some of the biggest health challenges for individuals and populations.

The design unifies the two buildings into one single form, taking into consideration quality of space, sustainability and cost. By combining the Harkness and Gibson, a single identifiable entity is formed, enclosing the courtyard to maximise area.

The courtyard will become a ‘green heart’ with multiple uses from informal working and serendipitous cross-disciplinary interactions to a restorative space to reflect, relax and inspire creating thinking. Diffused natural light will create a pleasant and calm atmosphere offering spaces that feel intimate and soothing, as well as encouraging movement and interaction.

The project is targeting Passivhaus EnerPHit Standard for refurbishments to create a highly energy efficient building with passive design features such as a compact form factor, highly insulated, airtight envelope and optimum solar shading. The sustainability strategies are aligned with the ambitions of the Oxford Local Plan NZC 2040.

Professor Richard Hobbs, Head of Department, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, said: “A sense of place, space and innovation in design will bring the best experts together to motivate and create the best research and teaching. We are working closely with NBBJ to create a vibrant environment, high quality and innovative space for our staff and students to thrive in.”

David Lewis, Partner at NBBJ said: “Designing this new Institute makes NBBJ part of the frontier of using digital tools to improve health outcomes for whole communities; we are so pleased to be able to provide an inspiring sustainable and welcoming space for researchers, academics and students to work and come together to solve major global challenges.”
The scheme is due to be submitted for planning early 2024.