A group of people wearing hardhats and high-vis jackets on a construction site, standing next to a digger.

A special breaking ground celebration was held on Tuesday 11 July to mark the start of construction to build Oriel, a new eye care, research and education centre in Camden.

The integrated centre will be the new home to Oriel partners: Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Charity. 

Bouygues UK is the leading contractor who will build the centre which is due to open in 2027.

We have been looking forward to this breaking ground event for a long time. It signifies we are now in the construction stage of the project to build the new home for Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to get us to this stage. This centre will support our global reputation for excellence and help us deliver outstanding care for all our patients.”

Dr Martin Kuper, Moorfields Eye Hospital chief executive

The new centre – part of the New Hospital Programme, the biggest hospital building programme in a generation - will harness the expertise of the partners under one roof to enable closer collaborative working between clinicians and researchers. 

This will speed up delivery of the highest quality treatments and therapies for patients in the UK and globally.

Breaking ground is an important construction milestone which publicly marks the start of building work on site.

Guests at the event included Lord Markham CBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, Mervyn Walker and Robert Dufton, the charity’s chair and CEO, key staff involved in the development and design of Oriel, NHS leaders and leadership donors who are supporting the project.

Philanthropy is critical to realising Oriel. Moorfields Eye Charity, in partnership with UCL, is committed to raising over £100 million. The campaign has raised over £71 million in capital commitments to date. We’re very grateful to the generous donors supporting this centre which will transform people’s lives.

The Oriel site was previously owned by Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust. In February 2023, Moorfields acquired the site through an NHS-to-NHS transaction approved by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and a £300 million contract was awarded to Bouygues UK to build Oriel.

We were delighted to invite our generous leadership donors to this exciting event. It gave us an opportunity to thank them for their support. Philanthropy is a key part of the Oriel funding mix and has a vital role to secure the future of eye health on a global scale. We look forward to talking to more interested donors.

Robert Dufton, Moorfields Eye Charity chief executive

Demolition of six buildings on the Oriel site started in late February and construction of the 10-storey, 47,000 sq. m, centre has now begun on site.

Watch our timelapse video of the demolition on the site:

The new centre will be located in the heart of the Knowledge Quarter, an internationally renowned hub for science and innovation.

It is close to several NHS, commercial and charity partners as well as UCL’s Bloomsbury campus. 

For the second year running, UCL was named second in the world for the strength of its international research network, which is central to their mission as London’s global university.

Being part of breaking ground really brought home that construction of our new centre is about to start. This is a hugely exciting milestone for Oriel and a great opportunity to celebrate all the work it has taken to get to this point. Oriel will allow us to drive forward innovation to support our work in the long-term and strengthen our partnership with Moorfields to deliver real benefits for patients.

Professor Alan Thompson, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences

For more information about Oriel, the construction programme and upcoming milestones please visit the Oriel website.