Oxford University’s new Mathematical Institute facility, the Andrew Wiles Building, was officially opened last Thursday. The dedicated building will be at the centre of the department’s and its students’ academic life, serving for all 900 undergraduates, whilst boasting workspace for over 500 researchers and support staff, and featuring six lecture theatres which will also benefit the university as a whole.
The building’s design, by Rafael Viñoly Architects, aims to be architecturally sympathetic to the Oxford skyline. Named after one of Oxford’s most celebrated mathematicians- Professor Sir Andrew Wiles, who famously proved Fermat’s Last Theorem- the building reflects further mathematical influences in its architecture, from the paving patterns conceived of by Sir Roger Penrose, another Oxford mathematician, to the intricate canopies and windows.
Attended by guests including Sir Andrew Wiles himself, the University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Hamilton, and the Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts, the opening marked a considerable consolidation for the Mathematical Institute, whose members were previously dispersed among 3 separate locations.
David Willetts commented: “The opening of this fantastic building is great news for Oxford’s staff and students, who will soon be learning together in a stunning new space.
“Maths plays a vital role in our education system, our economy and our society. Our top mathematicians help unlock the mysteries of science, and enable us to stay ahead in the global race.”
Alongside its functions for the University, the building is also available for local community meetings and events, and offers new opportunities for public lectures and conferences.
Professor Sam Howison, Chairman of Mathematics, said: “The space has already been used by a diverse range of groups including Oxfordshire Fire Brigade and Thames Valley Police. Indeed the building has attracted interest from beyond the city as people become aware that Oxford now has another top-class venue to add to its many attractions.”
Moreover, the Institute has stated that “it is a venue where we can welcome our collaborators, our friends, and the researchers of the future.”
The substantial funds for the development were raised largely through Oxford Thinking, the Campaign for the University of Oxford.
Unsurprisingly, many students belonging to the Mathematical Institute have welcomed the addition.
Eva Sanchez, a maths student at New College, said: “It’s incredibly useful as we’re normally scattered with no building. For example, we had our prelim lectures in the museum.”
Another maths student, second year Andrew Wills, remarked, “The building looks good and the interior seems attractive and comfortable.” He wryly added that the building’s name would sound better with a single-letter change.
The opening is no insignificant event, for both the university and the local community. Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, said: “The opening of the Andrew Wiles Building opens up a new chapter in the history of mathematics at Oxford. Modern mathematics embraces all of the sciences and beyond and this building will enhance collaboration between those working in different disciplines as well as providing a new space for university and community conferences and events.”
However, the building is not to the complete satisfaction of all. One such said: “it could still be a bit closer”, criticizing the building’s location in the direction of Woodstock Road. Despite these misgivings though, for the most part the Andrew Wiles Building promises to be a valuable addition to the university, and hopefully the wider community.