Blog: Building Project of the Year under £10m SECBE Awards 2020 finalist - The Wolfson Building

11 May 2020

sponsored by Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield

Building Project of the Year under £10m SECBE Awards 2020 finalist - The Wolfson Building, John Radcliffe Hospital, University of Oxford (submitted by fjmt studio)

Forming part of the John Radcliffe Hospital complex in Oxford, the Wolfson Building - a project delivered with fjmt studio - extends from a constrained and sloped site, offering the UK’s first dedicated centre fthe or prevention of stroke and dementia research.

Expressed as two linear rectangular forms staggered to articulate the H-shape floor plan, the primary spaces are organised on either side of a circulation and service spine that incorporates the stairs, lift, shared facilities, amenities and meeting rooms. Horizontal circulation is terminated at both ends with glazed portals to capture views. The facade is arranged in various combinations to create a unique architectural pattern broken up by full-height slot window apertures. 

The project achieved BREEAM Excellent despite a constrained site, competing requirements and tight budget. An innovative solution for natural ventilation with acoustic buffering is incorporated within the reveals of the facade, ensuring the building is full of fresh air, and controlled natural light.

Key challenges

A primary challenge was to meet the client’s aspirations of a naturally ventilated building while also achieving the targeted internal noise levels and security requirements. This was achieved through integrated natural ventilation attenuator boxes. Due to the complexity, this required a bespoke design and manufacturing process. The many requirements of this system included the avoidance of thermal bridging, air sealing, weather tightness, acoustic protection, security and an intricate interface with the facade system, all whilst maintaining a high-quality aesthetic.

A collaborative approach from the design team, client, main contractor and suppliers helped to understand and overcome these challenges, and was realised together using a mixture of samples, mock-ups and workshops.

Another significant challenge was the severely constrained site at of one of the largest and busiest hospitals in the region and the close proximity of the air ambulance landing stage, which required emergency services access to be maintained at all times. Limited space for material handling or site amenities as well as operating in a ‘live’ hospital environment already suffering from existing traffic congestion had a significant impact on delivery and site logistics.

To address this, deliveries were timed to suit the peak traffic conditions. Workers were ferried in by chartered bus every day from centralised ‘Park and Ride’ facilities located elsewhere. Site facilities were relocated multiple times during the course of the project whilst maintaining health and safety, secure acc,ess etc. Off-site storage areas were utilised to ensuthe re availability of components to meet the construction programme.

Testimony from Professor Irene Tracey, Warden of Merton College and former Head of Department & Nuffield Chair in Anaesthetic Science, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford who was one of the key client representatives:

“I am delighted to provide this testimony that speaks to the outstanding work and skilled professionalism provided by fjmt. They were responsible for the design of the recently completed Wolfson Building. The building provides purpose-built facilities for the Centre for the Prevention of Stroke and Dementia (CPSD) and the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging (WIN), component units of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences (part of the University of Oxford Medical Sciences Division). The project creates the UK’s largest dedicated centre for stroke and dementia research.


  • This is the UK’s first dedicated centre forthe prevention of Stroke and Dementia. (CPSD) This building will facilitate continued research by the Stroke Prevention Research Unit, which was founded in 2000 and has become one of the most productive stroke research groups in the world. The building also houses the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging (WIN) bringing together neuroscientists and people with a background in physics or image processing. The expansion within this building will enable the centre to continue one of its major achievements to develop one of the world’s most popular software tools for analysing brain images, which is used in over 1,000 laboratories across the world.
  • From onset through to completion, sustainability has been a key driver of the architectural concept, building form, construction, systems, and building use. In addition to achieving BREEAM excellent, the project, completed in early 2019, and despite all of the competing requirements associated with an extremely constrained site, when benchmarked to the RIBA 2030 challenge, results in the Net Operation energy surpassing the 2020 targets and coming extremely close to meeting the 2025 targets.
  • Successful collaboration amongst client, stakeholders, design team and contractors, combined with an open and transparent communication process throughout all phases of the project, has enabled challenges to be reviewed, understood and resolved collaboratively to meet the project aspirations to deliver a high quality and innovative building. It resulted in the creation of a sustainable environment, with an emphasis on health and well-being and a contemporary workplace for CPSD and WIN to carry out important research which has the potential to make a real difference to people’s lives. 

About the Building Project of the Year Award:

The SECBE Awards team look for outstanding local projects that: demonstrate great team working between the client and entire supply chain; were delivered before the programmed completion date, below the approved cost plan and to quality exceeding expectation whilst delivering the highest of health and safety standards; achieved the lowest environmental impacts; delivered outstanding customer satisfaction and may have also received praise from other stakeholders, and demonstrated the highest levels of the application of best practice, innovation and technical achievement to overcome the project’s challenges.

> Find out more about the other finalists here

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