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IN DETAIL: CONCRETE FINS AT THE MICHAEL UREN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING RESEARCH HUB

Alongside the Westway at White City the Michael Uren Biomedical Engineering Research Hub provides a distinctive welcome to Imperial College London’s new campus. Its prominent location on the edge of the site is emphasised by a memorable exterior that is gradually coming into view.

The south and north frontages of the building have been conceived as a pair, with the south facade intended to be seen and understood while travelling at speed and its counterpart to be contemplated from the campus’s central square. The reading of the facade shifts from apparently opaque on approach to highly transparent when seen directly, revealing the laboratory spaces behind.

The facades are composed of stacked, 4.35m high precast concrete fins set in front of full height glazing. These are 0.5m deep, set apart at 1.1 m, and have seven different geometries created by a simple, horizontal offset to the leading edge. In combination, they give rise to a dynamic composition reminiscent of artist Herman de Vries’s works exploring the representation of evolution.

Functionally, on the south side of the building the fins serve to protect the laboratory interior from solar gain during the day and glare from the headlamps of passing traffic in the evening. On the north, the same facade provides an intricate and nuanced surface for longer contemplation from the central square, whilst from inside the fins frame direct views out, mitigating overlooking towards the adjacent residential building.

The fins are conceived as light-coloured precast concrete. Ground granular blast-furnace slag, a sustainable substitute for Portland cement pioneered by the building’s benefactor Michael Uren, has been used for its environmental benefits, and naturally light-coloured appearance.

The Michael Uren Biomedical Engineering Research Hub will house life-changing research into new and affordable medical technology, helping people affected by a diverse range of medical conditions. Imperial’s world-class engineers, scientists and clinicians will work together in the new space and facilities alongside spin-out companies, helping to create a vibrant innovation district at Imperial White City.

Read more about the development here.