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The New Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics


The New Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics

This was an iconic project for Interserve, Durham University and the north east of England - design and construction of a highly bespoke, three-storey insitu concrete framed building with unusual geometry, shape and angles.


The New Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics The Centre houses research teams for the Institute for Computational Cosmology the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy and the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation, who strive to understand the fundamental properties of the universe. The facility, built to an extremely high specification, provides accommodation for departmental professors and academic staff including conference, administrative and technical support facilities, with a large number of cellular offices. 

Landmark design

Designed by Studio Daniel Libeskind, a signature American architectural practice with a track record that includes Berlin’s Jewish Museum and the master plan for the World Trade Center redevelopment in New York.

Sustainable building

Durham University required an exemplary environmental approach:

  • high quality materials, contributing to the University Carbon Management Plan and achieving a BREEAM Excellent rating.

  • the design is extremely contemporary in its nature whilst remaining respectful of its location within the curtilage of the city’s World Heritage Site status, cognizant of the relevant distance views associated with Durham’s topography and historic context.

  • responsibly reflecting best practice in design and specification, based on ‘life cycle’ costing principles.

  • including various low and zero carbon technologies to achieve an EPC ‘A’ rating. 

Challenging construction

The building’s shape and form was always going to create challenges with its unusual structural frame, overlapping floor plates and mix of angled and circular concrete columns. The frame had to be dimensionally perfect to allow the complex envelope to be constructed, as all external walls were angled, blending outward and inward slopes set at either a five or eleven degree angle.

Precision was critical and required millimetre perfect engineering control using the latest robotic engineering equipment. We created the perfect exposed concrete finish on walls and ceilings. Visits to Sheffield Hallam University, home to the British Standard for concrete finishes, allowed us to visualise the definitive “BS 8520”. We then cast test sample columns on site to deliver a high quality finished appearance.

We used the latest mobile elevating platform technology, the TITAN boom, to facilitate timely and safe construction of sloping facades. We adopted an innovative reinforcement carpet system which helped with programme, quality and minimised concerns with manual handling.

Supply chain collaboration

Local architects Gradon Architecture worked with our specialist supply chain to develop the facade design using BIM, ensuring detailed co‐ordination and design.

Our frame contractor made bespoke angled base plate shutters to allow sloping columns to be perfectly cast.

Our steelwork specialist manufactured bespoke angled bolt jigs to allow core drilling of slabs to match the facade slope angle. This ensured precise installation of all subsequent steelwork.

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Project vitals


United Kingdom


Durham University


£9.2 million


May 2015 - October 2016
Constructing excellence award
Challenging design, with complex envelope, demanded an innovative approach supported by precision engineering. #ingenuityatwork


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Energy and process

With a portfolio extending across the UK, Interserve offers an unparalleled range of services from new build, reburbished and shut down locations, through to term maintenance.


We carry out every aspect of a project, from financing, design, development and construction to after-care and facilities management.

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