Sir Michael Uren Hub

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Fit for science

This is a dynamic new facility for Imperial College London on its White City campus. The building provides flexible accommodation for translational research initiatives at the interface of biomedical sciences and engineering, including research laboratories, an outpatient clinic, a 150-seat auditorium and a series of social spaces to encourage the informal exchange of ideas between researchers. Its prominent location on the Westway is emphasised by a memorable exterior of 1,300 precast concrete fins.

Context

Imperial White City is a major new campus for Imperial College where for the first time they will have the space to pursue a collaborative research agenda, collocating academia, research and business with the aim of developing formal research partnerships and the informal 'serendipitous' from which innovation can emerge.

The Sir Michael Uren Hub is sited in an emerging corridor of tall buildings to the north side of the elevated A40 Westway. Our brief was to create a facility capable of attracting and accommodating world class researchers, with efficiently serviced facilities, a pleasant working environment and social spaces that would encourage collaboration and creative interdisciplinary conversations.

Concept sketch

Challenge

The building's triangular footprint has been configured in respect of its neighbours and busy road whilst maximising the use of available land. The building form and facade produce a distinctive public image for the research hub. Adjacent to the Westway, our facade design of vertical fins is eye-catching but also provides a screen of privacy for workers and acts as solar shading.

Concept

As much as being configured outside in, the building's triangular footprint has enabled the emergence of a strong internal organisational diagram - one that is unusual for the building type but has allowed a rigorous integration of architecture, services and structure, affording a highly flexible and efficient servicing strategy. The Uren building turns the conventional model of interstitial plant floors, sandwiched by and servicing laboratory floors above and below, on its side. The result is an on-floor plant on every level with a vertical plant stack and super riser. The on-floor plant has been efficiently located at the constricted end of the triangular plan from where it connects to a central spine across the length of the floor plate to provide a route for services distributed and circulation of people and goods.

This servicing strategy delivers flexible laboratory space which may over time support a wide range of users, an important project objective.

Process

Consultations with the Research Hub User Group highlighted the advantages of having wet and dry laboratories, write-up spaces and offices on the same floor. The triangular plan allows a gradient of services and uses: from plant at the apex, through heavily serviced wet laboratories, to lightly serviced dry laboratories and offices, to informal breakout and social spaces at the floor plate's widest point.

The resulting floorplans align with typical laboratory standards and meet all the user requirements whilst being generic enough to adapt to different areas of research and uses when required.

The main entrance provides a social space for exhibitions and functions, adjoining a ground floor cafe, access to the auditorium and associated foyer on the lower ground floor, as well as secure entrance to the research floors above. A second entrance serving the clinical facility is more discretely located near a new vehicle drop-off/pick-up point. Loading bay and service yard entrances are carefully integrated into the facade.

1/5

The building makes a memorable impression along Wood Lane

2/5

The facade creates a distinctive identity

3/5

Reception

4/5

Laboratory

5/5

160-seat auditorium

The Sir Michael Uren Hub is a game-changer for inter-disciplinary research at the engineering and medicine interface. Not only does it provide flexibility, but the design also facilitates interaction through its clever zoning of interaction space, office space, and laboratories. Although users have only just started moving in, relocating from other parts of the Imperial College estate, there is already a real buzz and excitement about this building and how it will enable new ways of working
Prof. Anthony Bull, Head, Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College

Impact

The Sir Michael Uren Hub was our first commission for Imperial College, won through a design competition. It was followed by our masterplan for the southerly portion of the White City Campus, a commission that led directly to being invited to produce a masterplan for their original campus at South Kensington and, relationship thoroughly cemented, designs for a new School of Public Health currently in progress.

Information table

City
London W12
Uses
Education, Health
Client
Imperial College London
Status
Current
Size
18,150 sqm (GIFA)
Environmental credentials
BREEAM Excellent
Collaborators
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Structure: Curtins

Services: Buro Happold

Cost: Faithful + Gould

Laboratory Planning: Abell Nepp

Photography: James Newton