Metal fins cover Cambridgeshire laboratory by Abell Nepp

Laddered metal fins angle from the facade of Cambridgeshire laboratory by Abell Nepp

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).

Hixton laboratory in Cambridgeshire by Abell Nepp

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.

Hixton laboratory in Cambridgeshire by Abell Nepp

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.

Hixton laboratory in Cambridgeshire by Abell Nepp

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.

Hixton laboratory in Cambridgeshire by Abell Nepp

"As it can be viewed from the nearby hills, the roof was an important design feature," said the architects.

Hixton laboratory in Cambridgeshire by Abell Nepp

"The sloped north facade 'leans into' the plaza emphasising transparency, engagement and interaction between the staff, the plaza and the buildings," they said.

Hixton laboratory in Cambridgeshire by Abell Nepp

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.

Hixton laboratory in Cambridgeshire by Abell Nepp

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.

Hixton laboratory in Cambridgeshire by Abell Nepp

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.

Hixton laboratory in Cambridgeshire by Abell Nepp

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.

Hixton laboratory in Cambridgeshire by Abell Nepp

Photography is by Edmund Sumner.


Project credits:

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
Structural: AECOM
Building Services Engineer: AECOM
IT/AV Consultant: Cordless Consultants
Town Planning: Porta Planning
Project/Cost Manager: Turner and Townsend

Hixton laboratory in Cambridgeshire by Abell Nepp
Axonometric diagram – click for larger image
Hixton laboratory in Cambridgeshire by Abell Nepp
Site plan – click for larger image
Hixton laboratory in Cambridgeshire by Abell Nepp
Lower level floor plan – click for larger image
Hixton laboratory in Cambridgeshire by Abell Nepp
Plaza floor plan – click for larger image
Hixton laboratory in Cambridgeshire by Abell Nepp
Upper level floor plan – click for larger image
Hixton laboratory in Cambridgeshire by Abell Nepp
Sections – click for larger image