A row of aluminium ribs curves away from the serrated glass facade of this research laboratory in England to help shelter occupants from the sun (+ slideshow).
The aluminium louvres front the South Building by London firm Abell Nepp for the European Bioinformatics Institute – a research centre developing computer-based methods for interpreting biological data – located in a rural area of Cambridgeshire.
The three-storey building sits on the edge of the campus' main plaza. It houses facilities for over 240 bioinformatics researchers and a training centre including a 150-seat lecture theatre, IT rooms and a media studio. The £17 million needed to complete the project was funded by the UK Research Councils.
The row of sculptural louvres create a brise-soleil for the laboratory that prevents the spaces inside from overheating when the sun shines on the building. They curve to meet the ground, softening the profile of the structure and hunching away from a nearby village. A more angular, zig-zagging facade faces onto the plaza.
"As it can be viewed from the nearby hills, the roof was an important design feature," said the architects.
"The sloped north facade 'leans into' the plaza emphasising transparency, engagement and interaction between the staff, the plaza and the buildings," they said.
A wide pitched-roofed atrium channels through the centre of the building, providing ample daylight for the 36 glass-fronted research pods located around its edges.
Internal window shades lower automatically after dusk to prevent light pollution from artificial lighting and solar panels integrated into the roof structure provide 10 per cent of the building's energy requirements.
Tea points dotted around the atrium walkways offer informal meeting spaces with views of the surrounding wetlands for researchers. These walkways have balustrades made from strips of evenly spaced timber.
A larger lobby adjacent to the lecture theatre and training facilities is located below the atrium at ground level. Doorways for the auditorium and IT suites are recessed into blood-red pits in the lobby walls.
Photography is by Edmund Sumner.
Occupier: European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI)
Funding Agency: BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council)
Project Director: Wellcome Trust Construction Limited
Architect / Lead Consultant: Abell Nepp
Landscape Architect: Robert Myers Associates
Building Services Engineer: AECOM
IT/AV Consultant: Cordless Consultants
Town Planning: Porta Planning
Project/Cost Manager: Turner and Townsend