Published  11/12/2001

Said business


The Said Business School at Oxford University, designed by Jeremy Dixon and Edward Jones, has been built on a central site conveniently close to Oxford’s railway station using a 20 million donation from the Syrian-born businessman Wafic Said. The Said fortune is openly admitted to have been largely developed from arms dealing, and Said was important in selling Britain as the main supplier for the Saudi-Arabian air force. After a troubled start, Dixon and Jones, veterans of Covent Garden Opera House wars and others — but highly reputable and today much praised for the new building at the National Portrait Gallery — reached completion. Much of Oxford University has been built on the spoils of war, whether it be John Balliol or Walter de Merton, but today it’s a minefield. However, the completed building, definitely the wrong side of the tracks from a donnish viewpoint, does much to raise the quality of the surrounding expanse. There is a quadrangle, a tower, a gate and a library. Arcades run, the entry is transparency personified, brises-soleils and a tapered, copperclad pinnacle in the best Oxford tradition. The problem is that there is much metaphor, none of it mixed, but much of it too subtle — too learned even — for the average bicycling don who knows what he likes. This is an urbane building in an urban desert. Perhaps one day the surroundings (suddenly the subject of much nostalgia) will thank you Wafic Said, and measure up to the new Business School. By sheer grit, Jeremy and Ed have seen it through.

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