Stanton Williams completes new lab for University of Cambridge
The Sainsbury Laboratory is an 11,000-sq-m major plant science research centre set within The University of Cambridge Botanic Garden. The brief set the standards for performance and quality uniquely high, defined at commencement as 'facilitating world class science' and 'achieving world class architecture'. The design, as stipulated by the brief, reconciles complex scientific requirements with the need for a piece of architecture that also responds to its landscape setting. It provides a collegial, stimulating environment for innovative research and collaboration. The building is situated
within the private, ‘working' part of the Garden, and houses research laboratories and their associated support areas. It also contains the University's Herbarium, meeting rooms, an auditorium, social spaces and upgraded ancillary areas for Botanic Garden staff, plus a new public café.
Completed in December 2010, the building is designed to aid discussion and debate between the scientists through the spatial organisation of social spaces and circulation. Central to the building's identity is the way in which it is experienced as a sequence of spaces that are conceived in terms of their relationship with the surrounding Garden. The way in which the Laboratory's different functions are connected by a continuous route recalls the ‘thinking path' described by Charles Darwin (whose mentor, John Henslow, oversaw the laying out of the Botanic Garden), a way to reconcile nature and thought through the activity of walking. Here the ‘thinking path' is reinterpreted in the tradition of the monastic cloister or collegiate court as a space for reflection, debate and interaction that also enjoys good views of the Garden itself. In this respect, the solidity implied by the strata-like conception of the building (with alternate layers of stone and concrete) is balanced by a concern with permeability that is manifested in the expansive glazing to the ground and first floors and which reinforces the close relationship between the new Laboratory and the Garden which provides the fundamental raison d'etre for the research it will house.
The Sainsbury Laboratory provides a working environment of the highest quality to attract world-leading scientists and enhance the education remit of the building as a centre of excellence for scientific research. Designed to be highly responsive to the users' needs, access to views throughout the working areas, generous spaces and extensive day-lighting provide an enjoyable and stimulating working and learning environment. The BREEAM 'Excellent' rated Laboratory is also a highly energy efficient building. Designed for a long life, with a robust structure, it has a high level of adaptability to provide for
current and future requirements.