Schwarzman Topping Out Ceremony
Schwarzman Topping Out Ceremony

Image credit: John Cairns

Topping-out ceremony celebrates new milestone for the Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities

The Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities celebrated reaching a new milestone this week.

The Centre, which began construction in January 2023, has reached its highest point and was commemorated with a topping out ceremony.

The event began with an afternoon of cultural activities produced and promoted by the University’s Cultural Programme and included performances from the Castalian String Quartet, Quartet in Residence at the Faculty of Music and from the Oxford Gamelan Society.

The festivities ended with the symbolic placement of a yew branch taken from a 379-year-old yew tree from the University’s Botanic Gardens. Professor William Whyte, Senior Responsible Owner, said: 'Planted by the first Curator of Oxford’s Botanic Garden, Jacob Bobart, it is the oldest plant in the collection and binds the Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities into the long history of the University, as well as the long-standing tradition of topping out.'

The Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities will house together Oxford’s Faculties of English, History, Linguistics, Philology & Phonetics, Medieval & Modern Languages, Music, Philosophy, and Theology & Religion in a space designed to encourage experiential learning and bold experimentation through cross-disciplinary and collaborative study.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Irene Tracey, said: 'I am thrilled to celebrate this milestone in the construction of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities. Buildings need to be inspirational if we’re to create spaces that enable our staff and students to fulfil their potential and do ground-breaking teaching and research. We are incredibly grateful to Stephen Schwarzman for his generous support for the Humanities, underpinning our commitment to continued excellence in this crucial area of study, and I look forward to seeing this space buzzing with students, staff and members of the community when it opens next year.’

Head of Humanities, Professor Dan Grimley, said: 'It is inspiring to celebrate this landmark in the creation of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities. When it opens in Autumn 2025, the Centre will be a beacon for the arts and humanities in the Oxford region, nationally, and beyond. It will welcome a diverse community of students, teachers, researchers, creative artists, and members of the public. We are indebted to Stephen A. Schwarzman for his generosity, vision, and his far-sighted support.'

The project, delivered by Laing O’Rourke, is the single largest building project the University has undertaken and will include a 500-seat concert hall, theatre, the Black Box experimental performance space, cinema, exhibition hall, the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, café and gardens.

Deputy Head of Capital Projects, Jennifer Makkreel, said: 'The University has worked to deliver buildings with Laing O’Rourke for over 20 years and it is wonderful to be topping out our 12th building together. Reaching this milestone on time and to the environmental and acoustic quality standards has been an impressive achievement for the team.'

Read more about The Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities.