THE director of a futuristic new university building in North Oxford has said he hopes it will become a new landmark in the city.

Oxford University’s £11m Investcorp Building, in Woodstock Road, was designed by Iraqi-British architect Dame Zaha Hadid and opened last week.

It will be part of the Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College and its metallic structure bridges a Victorian and Edwardian house, used by the college since its foundation.

The twisting concave building has been likened to be a piece of ultra-modern sculpture, resembling the upturned hull of a ship and contains a lecture theatre and library.

But it sparked controversy when its designs were unveiled to the public, with one civic group labelling it “questionable” and “overpowering”.

Middle East Centre director Dr Eugene Rogan hopes the finished product will win residents over.

He said: “I will be very interested to see how the community reacts, but my expectation is that people are going to have a lot of affection for this building and will see its design does not overpower its surroundings.

“The thing that delights me - when I am looking out of the windows at it - is you can see the reflection of the clouds in the sky, which is beautiful.

“I’m hopeful that the city will take to this building; it’s a 21st century landmark for Oxford.”

Founded in 1957, the Middle East Centre is the university’s centre of research and teaching on the Arab world, Iran, Israel and Turkey from the 19th century to the present day.

Its new addition is designed by Dame Zaha, best known in the UK for designing the Aquatics Centre at the London Olympic Games. Her other projects have included the Mind Zone at the Millennium Dome, the Rosenthal Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, the BMW Central Building in Leipzig and Maggie’s Centre, a cancer care centre, in Kirkcaldy, Scotland.

Dr Rogan added: “We were outgrowing our buildings, because the centre houses the library on the Middle East and it is a rapidly growing collection.”

Since the eruption of a series of crises in the Middle East throughout the beginning of the 21st century, he said interest in the centre’s courses had grown hugely.

“At the end of the 20th century we might have been receiving 20 to 40 applications for our masters course on Middle Eastern studies, but in our latest round we received more than 120.”

The new building will allow the centre to cater for its growing user base with an expanded range of speaking events.

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