A Melting Iceberg: Research Centre in London
Architects: Ian Ritchie Architects
Location: 25 Howland Street, W1T 4JG, London (GB)
Located in the middle of the Fitzrovia district, the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre is one of the world’s most renowned institutions in its field. The architects developed the spatial program in close cooperation with its users. Centre director and Nobel laureate John O’Keefe played a leading role.
The building was designed from the inside out. Its heart comprises four two-storey laboratory units whose glass interior walls reveal what the individual teams are working on at any given moment. Rooms for meetings, computers and offices are glazed for the most part as well. Seating nooks, a long dining table with a view of the city, interaction rooms and the brasserie invite employees and visitors to enjoy some relaxed conversation. In order to offer future researchers suitable structural conditions, the floor plans have been conceptualized to be easy to change and adapt. The flexibility of the technical equipment was particularly important.
Its composition of insulated cast-glass elements is a new development created by the architects in conjunction with the glass manufacturer and the façade company. The panels shade the exterior completely, yet allow natural, glare-free light inside. Moreover, they can be used as whiteboards. Lit from within at night, they transform the building into a gleaming white body in its urban surroundings. During the day, the interplay of light and shadow on the undulating surface is a thing of beauty.