Science focuses on London

Nick Myall
Monday 14 Dec 2015

The new Francis Crick Institute in London will act as a hub for talent and research while aiding collaboration

The Francis Crick Institute in London, UK is a landmark partnership between the UK’s three largest funders of biomedical research (the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Trust) and three of its leading universities (University College London, Imperial College London and King’s College London). Located opposite St Pancras Station, it’s named after Francis Crick, the scientist who helped discover the structure of DNA and is due to open in the Spring of 2016.

The building has been designed by lead architect HOK with sub-consultant PLP. It facilitates collaboration among multidisciplinary groups of researchers including biologists, chemists, physicists, engineers, computer scientists and mathematicians. 

Large, cantilevered bay windows and tall glass atria reduce the building’s impact at street level and bring natural light into workspaces and public areas. To reduce its visible mass, four levels are below ground while the curved roof presents a gentle face to the community. 

The design encourages collaboration and interaction among researchers with four “laboratory neighbourhoods” connected by two atria. The atria bring daylight into all of the labs and other spaces while enhancing visibility. Glass walls allow for views into labs, promoting transparency and openness. Unless specific functions require closed walls, lab neighbourhoods are open to encourage interaction.  

Commenting on the project design principal at HOK Larry Malcic said: “When it is complete this will be the largest research facility of its kind in Europe.  Because science is constantly changing a much more collaborative spirit is called for and advances are made by groups of people getting together.”

“The building has a tremendous transparency and puts science on display which helps to break down the ominous atmosphere that sometimes surrounds science in the nuclear age. The collaborative and cooperative spirit will aid new discoveries. Having the Eurostar station opposite is also a big factor and it will help to make the facility truly international.

“The local community can use the building with an Exhibition area open to the public and the project has had a positive effect on the surrounding Somers Town area of north London.”

The design of the building was carefully thought through so it would compliment surrounding landmark buildings with terracotta bricks tying in with the nearby St Pancras station.

David King technical principal and director of project delivery at HOK said: “The building will contain four science neighbourhoods with a central atrium acting as a meeting place. Because the atrium acts as a crossing point it will facilitate ad hoc collaboration. With six partners looking at new ways of working the project has developed as it has gone along.”

When complete the Crick Institute will be the centre of a hub of medical research facilities including those at nearby UCL and leading hospitals. It will house 1250 scientists and 1500 staff in total and will provide a focal point for the considerable talent and knowledge in the area while playing its part in the life of the local community.

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Nick Myall

News Editor

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