New building by Zaha Hadid unveiled at Oxford University’s Middle East Centre

26 May 2015

On Tuesday 26 May, the Oxford University building created by Zaha Hadid was unveiled and named the Investcorp Building. The £11 million building was commissioned by St Antony’s College to provide much-needed space for its Middle East Centre. The Investcorp Building spans two Victorian buildings on Woodstock Road in the grounds of the college.

Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar was the keynote speaker for the unveiling of the new building. Sheikha Moza is chair of the Qatar Foundation, an education development and scientific research organisation, as well as the UNESCO Special Envoy for Basic and Higher Education since 2003.

The Investcorp Building is named after the alternative investment firm that donated £11 million for the project. Mr Nemir Kirdar, Investcorp’s Executive Chairman and CEO, commented: ‘From the outset, Investcorp’s mission has been broader than effecting mere financial transactions. We have also made it our goal to promote higher education and cross-cultural understanding. Oxford’s Middle East Centre was established to become a bridge between the West and the Middle East, and Investcorp could not be more proud to do our part to further this worthy cause.’

The new building doubles the space available for the Middle East Centre’s expanding library and archive, providing almost 1,200 square metres of additional floor space and a new 118-seat lecture theatre. The Middle East Centre holds Oxford University’s primary collection on the modern Middle East, a world-class collection of private papers and historic photographs used by scholars and researchers with an interest in the region. The Investcorp Building’s lecture theatre will allow the Middle East Centre’s to expand its popular programme of seminars, lectures and debates - much of which is open to both the University and the general public.

Founded in 1957, the Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College serves as the University of Oxford’s facility for research and teaching on the Arab world, Iran, Israel and Turkey from the 19th century to the present day. The Centre has been housed at 68 Woodstock Road (the former rectory of the Church of St Philip and St James, built in 1887) since 1978.

The library and archive of the Investcorp Building provide optimum conditions to conserve and manage the Middle East Centre’s collections that were previously stored in the basement of 66 Woodstock Road.
Relocating the library and archive to the Investcorp Building will make space available in the college’s existing buildings for further academic offices, studies and seminar rooms to accommodate the growth in student numbers in recent years. The Investcorp Building’s design connects and incorporates the existing protected buildings and trees. Its stainless steel cladding reflects natural light to give the building an ephemeral quality that mirrors its context.

Dame Zaha Hadid said: ‘The work of the Middle East Centre contributes to the global discourse and greater understanding of the region. The new Investcorp Building connects disparate buildings within the college, defining a series of generous spaces for the centre’s renowned archive, library and seminar programmes; allowing the Middle East Centre to expand its commitment as a forum of research, understanding and open debate.’

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Professor Andrew Hamilton, said: ‘We are honoured that Her Highness Sheikha Moza who has done so much to promote education globally should be here today. That Zaha Hadid, the visionary architect who is herself from Iraq, should have created this building dedicated to the study of the Arab World and the Middle East is especially pleasing.’

Director of the Middle East Centre, Dr Eugene Rogan, said: ‘As one of Britain’s most acclaimed architects, with roots firmly in the Middle East, Zaha Hadid was the ideal choice for this project. Her history parallels our vision of Oxford’s Middle East Centre as a British centre of excellence with deep roots in the region. With this new building, the Middle East Centre enters a new era as one of the world’s finest research facilities on this area of crucial public interest.’

For more information, contact the University of Oxford News Office on +44 (0)1865 280534 or email

Notes for Editors:

  • Photos of the opening event will be available from the University of Oxford News Office at
  • Please credit photos of the opening to ‘University of Oxford/Photographers’ workshop
  • Photos and images of the new building are available from Zaha Hadid Architects communications team at +44 20 7253 5147
  • Middle East Centre
  • The Middle East Centre of St Antony’s College was established in 1957 as the University of Oxford’s interdisciplinary centre for the study of the modern Middle East (19th century to the modern day). Its Fellows, spanning disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, teach and carry out research relating to the Arab world, Iran, Israel and Turkey. The Centre’s research core is a specialised library and document and photographic archive covering material from the 1800’s onwards. The centre’s archive was set up in 1961 and has grown to over 400 collections of private papers and holds more than 100,000 historic photographs.
  • Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar
  • Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser is a co-founder and Chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), a private non-profit organisation founded in 1995. Its flagship project is Education City, which houses branch campuses of renowned international universities and institutions. QF is also engaged in numerous scientific research and economic and social development projects. Sheikha Moza served as the Vice Chair of the Supreme Council of Health from 2009-2014 and as the Vice Chair of the Supreme Education Council from 2006-2012. In these roles, she has helped enact major top-down reforms of Qatar’s public schools and healthcare system. She chairs the Sidra Medical and Research Centre, a new training and research hospital that is envisaged to become a leading institution for women and children’s specialty care.
  • Sheikha Moza plays an active role with the United Nations to support global education. In 2003, she was appointed as UNESCO’s Special Envoy for Basic and Higher Education; in 2008 she was appointed by the Secretary-General of the UN as Alliance of Civilizations (AOC) Ambassador; and in 2010 she became a member of the UN Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group with a special emphasis on Goal 2 – universal primary education. In 2012 she was appointed as a Steering Committee Member of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from Virginia Commonwealth University, Texas A&M University, Carnegie Mellon University, Imperial College London and Georgetown University. In 2007, Sheikha Moza was presented the prestigious Chatham House Award for her contributions to improving international relations. She was honoured with the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy and the George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service, awarded in 2013.
  • Zaha Hadid
  • Zaha Hadid was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize (considered the Nobel Prize of architecture) in 2004 and is internationally known for her built, theoretical and academic work. Each of her projects builds on over thirty years of research in the interrelated fields of urbanism and architecture. Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950, Hadid studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before moving to London in 1972 to attend the Architectural Association (AA) School. Hadid founded Zaha Hadid Architects in 1979 and completed her first building, the Vitra Fire Station, Germany in 1993.
  • Hadid has held the Kenzo Tange Chair at Harvard, the Eero Saarinen Chair at Yale, the Sullivan Chair at the University of Illinois and taught the masters studio at Columbia. She currently teaches at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna.
  • Hadid’s outstanding contribution to the architectural profession continues to be acknowledged by institutions around the world including Japan Art Association presenting her with the ‘Praemium Imperiale’. Two of her designs have been awarded the Stirling Prize, one of architecture’s highest accolades, by the Royal Institute of British Architects. Other awards include UNESCO naming Hadid as an ‘Artist for Peace’, the Republic of France honouring Hadid with the ‘Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’. In 2012, Zaha Hadid was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. 
  • About Investcorp
  • Investcorp is a leading provider and manager of alternative investment products. It has offices in New York, London and Bahrain and is publicly traded on the Bahrain Bourse (INVCORP). Investcorp has three main business areas: corporate investment in the US, Europe and the Gulf, real estate investment in the US and global hedge funds.
  • Further information is available at
  • Nemir Kirdar
  • Iraq-born Nemir Kirdar is Investcorp’s Executive Chairman and CEO. He began his banking career in New York in 1969 and joined The Chase Manhattan Bank, New York, in 1974. After overseeing Chase's banking network in the Arabian Gulf from 1976 to 1981, he founded Investcorp in 1982.
  • Mr Kirdar graduated in Economics from the University of the Pacific in California and holds an MBA from Fordham University in New York along with honorary degrees from Georgetown University, Washington DC; the University of the Pacific, California; and Richmond, the American International University in London. With his long interest in education, he has served on advisory boards at Georgetown, Harvard, Columbia and Cambridge Universities. He is the author of two published books on his native Iraq and his own life story.