Francis Crick Institute – Built to lead the world in scientific discovery
The highly distinctive and innovative design of the Francis Crick Institute – a new type of world-leading biomedical research institute in Kings Cross – has won it a place in the Community Benefit category of the RICS Awards 2017.
The institute is a biomedical discovery institute dedicated to understanding the fundamental biology underlying health and disease. Its work is helping to understand why disease develops and to translate discoveries into new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, infections, and neurodegenerative diseases.
The new building is the product of 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), bringing different disciplines together under one roof.
Named after Francis Crick, the scientist who helped discover the structure of DNA, designed by architects HOK with PLP Architecture, and constructed by Laing O’Rourke, the building was developed with input from scientists, local residents and community groups.
Sir Paul Nurse, director, Francis Crick Institute said: “A fantastic state-of-the-art new home for the Crick has been built … it will be the discoveries we make here that cement our place in London, in the UK and at the forefront of science worldwide.”
Architecturally, there are strong links between the new institute and the historic buildings in the local area. Both the masonry and the distinctive vaulted roof recall features of the adjacent St Pancras International station.
The vaulted roof is arranged into two shells. This feature is not simply decorative, it conceals the heating and cooling units and incorporates solar panels.
Large cantilevered bay windows along with tall glass atria reduce the impact of the building at street level and maintain natural light in both work and public areas. A third of the building is below ground to reduce its visible mass.
The main eastern entrance, opposite St Pancras International, faces a new public square on Midland Road. At the western side of the building, a garden framed by trees and benches has been created.
The facility is divided into four “laboratory neighbourhoods” connected by the two atria. The atria cross at the centre of the building creating a hub with break areas, informal collaboration space and a large central stair. Walkways and informal meeting areas crisscross the main atrium and connect neighbourhoods.
The atria bring daylight into all of the labs and other spaces, while enhancing the visibility of people throughout the building and between floors. Glass walls allow for views into labs, promoting transparency and openness. Unless specific functions require closed walls, lab neighbourhoods are open to encourage interaction.
Designed with flexibility, lab neighbourhoods can support rapid reconfiguration as research programmes change. A centralised service distribution system enables a kit-of-parts approach in which predetermined components can be plugged into service spines in different combinations.
The building was completed in August 2016 and the institute now houses some 1500 staff, making it one of Europe’s largest centres of biomedical research.