Slated for completion in 2015, the £600m design outlines a ground-breaking facility which will develop new treatments for major illnesses and ‘carry out research of the highest quality using the latest technology to advance understanding of human health and disease’. In close proximity to the British Library and St Pancras railway station, PLP Partner Fred Pilbrow commented: “The architectural strengths in many of the buildings surrounding the UKCMRI site have provided extraordinary inspiration.” This is evident in the masonry of the institute, which recalls the brickwork of the adjacent St Pancras; the majority of the building will be a light sandstone terracotta, punctuated by large projecting cantilevered bay windows. The roof by contrast is light metal, intended to be a delicate foil to the more robust detail of the base. The four laboratory wings will be lit by a long atrium running east west crossed by a north south atrium. These will become grand windows into the building and offer glimpses of the social and break-out spaces within.
The concept of such a large-scale institute in a city where land is scarce has caused something of a stir in the local community. Locals made their voices heard to Camden Council when it surfaced that the site had previously been put aside for much needed public housing, although fears were also raised that the new build would become a target for terrorist attacks. The planning committee will assess the designs in August. In response to the comments from local campaigners, the most recent design proposals have been adapted so that one third of the building is underground and the scale of the build has been reduced. A spokesman explained: “The roof at local level disappears behind a parapet. We have also created a plaza that could be used as a community facility in response to the feedback we have had.”
Chairman of the Scientific Planning Committee, Sir Paul Nurse, said: “UKCMRI aims to break down the traditional barriers between different research teams and different disciplines, thereby encouraging biologists, clinician scientists, chemists, physicists, mathematicians, and computer scientists to work together to answer shared questions. With 1250 scientists working with an encompassing infrastructure, UKCMRI will provide the critical mass, support and unique environment to tackle difficult research questions.”