Award-winning architect, Dame Zaha Hadid, was in Oxford last week for a ceremony unveiling her plans for St Antony’s new centre for studies of the Modern Middle East.Currently dubbed ‘The Softbridge’ because of its unusual design, the new centre will span the two current buildings and will provide a 125-seat lecture theatre, a new library, and a purpose-built archive facility.On completion, the project will be called ‘The Investcorp Building’, owing to the £11 million donation from Investcorp which made the project possible.The original Middle East Centre was founded in 1957, and is Oxford University’s facility for the study and teaching of the Arab world. Since 1978 it has been based in the buildings of 66 and 68 Woodstock Road, but cramped conditions were proving an issue for the growth of the Centre.Dr Eugene Rogan, a fellow of the Middle East Centre, helped bring the new project to fruition. He expressed his delight for the project, saying, “It’s fantastic that we are able to provide our students with such brilliant facilities.“There’s been tremendous interest in the Middle East ever since counterterrorism became such an issue, following 9/11. The number of people wishing to study the Middle East has gone through the roof.”He went on to express his gratitude to Dame Zaha, explaining, “She’s done so much to really make this a special building. She was the ideal choice for this project as she is one of Britain’s greatest architects with her roots firmly in the Middle East.”Dame Zaha Hadid was made a Dame in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to architecture and was the first female to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, architecture’s highest honour.In Britain, she is perhaps most famous for designing the Aquatics Centre for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
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