The St. Louis and London offices of HOK are part of a design team that helped one of Europe’s largest biomedical translational research centers earn R&D Magazine’s 2017 Laboratory of the Year. The Francis Crick Institute, which opened last year in central London, was saluted by the research and development trade publication. HOK, led by the firm’s London and St. Louis practice, served as architect and lead designer responsible for the institute’s overall design concept, lab planning, interior design and landscape architecture. PLP Architecture collaborated with HOK, leading the project through planning and shaping the building’s distinctive form and striking architectural expression.
Named after the scientist who helped discover the structure of DNA, the Francis Crick Institute represents a paradigm shift for biomedical research in the UK and the global research community. The 980,000-sq.-ft. building is home to 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.
“More than just sharing a building, these organizations have partnered as a diverse community of researchers working together in interdisciplinary teams,” said Bill Odell, FAIA, LEED AP, HOK’s firm-wide director of Science + Technology based in St. Louis.
The design encourages collaboration and interaction among multidisciplinary Crick researchers including biologists, chemists, physicists, engineers, computer scientists and mathematicians. The facility is divided into four lab neighborhoods connected by two atria that bring daylight into all of the labs and other spaces. The atria cross at the center of the building to create a hub with break areas, informal collaboration space, a large central stair and a concierge serving the entire floor.
“One of the Crick’s strategic priorities—‘pursue discovery without boundaries’—emphasizes the importance of its workplace environment,” said Odell. “Its researchers are encouraged to explore their scientific curiosities, with almost no idea being off limits.”
Glass walls allow for views into labs, promoting transparency and openness. Unless specific functions require closed walls, lab neighborhoods are open to encourage interaction. Walkways and informal meeting areas crisscross the main atrium and connect neighborhoods.
Designed with flexibility, lab neighborhoods can support rapid reconfiguration as research programs change. A centralized service distribution system enables a kit-of-parts approach in which predetermined components can be plugged into service spines in different combinations.
Now in its 51st year, the Laboratory of the Year Awards recognize excellence in research laboratory design, planning and construction. Judging of the annual international competition was conducted by a blue-ribbon panel of laboratory architects, engineers, equipment manufacturers, researchers and the editors of R&D Magazine and Laboratory Design. A complete profile of the Francis Crick Institute is in the May/June 2017 issues of R&D Magazine and Laboratory Design. More about the award can be found at this link.
HOK is a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm. Through a network of 23 offices worldwide, HOK provides design excellence and innovation to create places that enrich people’s lives and help clients succeed. DesignIntelligence consistently ranks HOK as a leader in sustainable, high-performance design and technology innovation.