Collaboration is the watchword in contemporary life sciences facilities. Even as scientists from a variety of disciplines share knowledge in pursuit of new treatments for diseases, municipal governments are pooling resources with the private sector to create biotechnology clusters, universities are teaming with nonprofit companies, and nonprofit organizations are working with for-profit companies to speed the “bench to bedside” process—getting the results of research translated into therapies that start healing people as soon as possible.
The design of life science facilities reflects this collaborative approach, providing researchers with flexible work environments that break down barriers to communication and sharing of ideas. The following ten projects, all completed in the past five years, represent exemplary and innovative approaches to fostering interaction and creativity, ranging from a combined research facility for two state universities to a building that puts scientists from privately and publicly funded institutes side by side in laboratories.
The ten projects are listed alphabetically, not ranked.
1. Arizona Biomedical Collaborative
In order to attract bioscience development firms downtown, Phoenix, the state of Arizona, and the state universities teamed up to create the 28-acre (11.3-ha) Phoenix Biomedical Campus. A key piece of the effort is the Arizona Biomedical Collaborative. Completed in 2007, the facility provides research space for bioscience students from the University of Arizona’s department of basic medical sciences and Arizona State University’s department of biomedical informatics, with wet and dry labs, offices, interaction spaces, and conference rooms.
Designed by SmithGroup’s Phoenix office, the structure complements the materials palette of surrounding historic and contemporary buildings with an exterior of concrete, zinc, and steel. The facility, certified Gold under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, has a heat recovery system and high-efficiency variable air volume fume hoods that reduce energy costs. Solar heat–blocking louvers allow natural light to enter the space and provide views in from the outside.
2. BRITE, North Carolina Central University
DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA
To provide workforce training and development for the biotechnology industry, private, state government, and academic partners created the NCBioImpact consortium in Research Triangle Park. NCBioImpact teamed up with North Carolina Central University in Durham to build the Biotechnology Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE), which readies students for biotech jobs by providing them with research environments patterned after industry counterparts.
Design architect Freelon Group and architect of record O’Brien/Atkins Associates, both local, designed the facility, which opened in 2008, as an addition to the university’s science building. Two miles (3 km) from Research Triangle Park, the facility gives the enterprise a strong presence on campus, with a perforated screen that shelters rooftop mechanical equipment and drops vertically to create a highly visible archway, and a masonry exterior that harmonizes with existing buildings. The east and west elevations are an abstract interpretation of an unfolded DNA strand.
3. HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology
The aerospace industry has long played a key role in Huntsville, but the city is also diversifying its economy, in part by establishing a biotechnology campus at Cummings Research Park, the second-largest research and technology park in the United States. The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology opened in 2008 as the cornerstone of the campus.
Designed by Cooper Carry of Atlanta, the not-for-profit’s facility leases space to privately owned biotechnology companies. Intended to speed the development of biotech products more quickly than possible in academia, the facility encourages cross-pollination of ideas among tenants by organizing labs around a glass atrium ringed with principal investigators’ offices, with balconies and windows making the office occupants visible to each other.
4. Institute for Life Sciences, University of Southampton
The University of Southampton created the Institute of Life -Sciences to bring together faculty and students from the schools of biological sciences and medicine, and to engage in multi–disciplinary research with scientists and engineers from elsewhere in the university. The lower two floors contain seminar rooms and administrative offices; the upper floors contain specialized laboratories, a shared research core, and office space. The top floor contains administrative space and meeting rooms, with a rooftop observation deck providing views to the sea and a place for people of all disciplines to hang out.
Offices are stacked on one side of the atrium, and the laboratories, which require more substantial floor-to-floor heights, are stacked on the other, with visual connections provided between the two. The atrium not only allows daylight to penetrate the building, but also serves as a natural ventilation stack for all areas except the laboratories. The London office of NBBJ designed the facility, which opened this year.
5. Life Sciences Complex, McGill University
McGill University’s existing biological sciences and medical sciences buildings sat side by side, but with no connections between the two, researchers could not work together easily or share equipment. With private and public funding, the university renovated the structures and added a life sciences building and cancer research building to create a life sciences complex. The designers, a joint venture of Diamond Schmitt Architects of Toronto and local firm Provencher Roy + Associés Architectes, had to fit the new structures into a tight mountainside site at the edge of a large park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The site also is near residences and historic buildings, which limited building heights.
The vivarium is tucked into the mountainside, creating room for research and office functions. The building bridges the service access road. To maximize interaction, meeting rooms, social spaces, and collaboration areas are located at circulation nodes where the new and old buildings connect. A four-story atrium serves as a circulation hub. The complex was completed in 2008. Funding sources included private donors, the provincial government, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
6. Merck Serono Headquarters
To build its global headquarters, biotech company Merck Serono bought a 463,000-square-foot (43,000-sq-m) former industrial site close to Geneva’s downtown. The state government required the company to renovate and reuse three historic structures, the oldest built in the 19th century. Chicago-based Murphy/Jahn preserved these buildings’ historic elements, refurbishing them for use as house offices, a conference center, and a daycare facility that is shared with the city and serves both local families and children of employees. The designers added three new buildings, cladding them in glass to emphasize transparency, visibility, and natural light.
Opened in 2007, the facility brings together administrators and researchers; to encourage collaboration among different groups, a variety of interaction spaces are strategically placed throughout, including two glass atriums, informal seating areas, a library, a fitness center, an employee café, and a restaurant. One atrium has movable vents and a retracting roof that opens the space to the outdoors in temperate seasons. Energy-saving strategies such as ventilation flaps, movable shade structures, radiant ceilings, and raised-floor ventilation keep the building comfortable. The company joined with the Geneva government to construct a pumping station in Lake Geneva to move water into the headquarters and buildings of other nearby institutions, heating and cooling the interiors.
7. Regeneron Headquarters at Landmark at Eastview
TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK
Biopharmaceutical company Regeneron wanted to expand its corporate headquarters at the Landmark at Eastview science and technology office park in Tarrytown. The office park’s owner, San Diego–based BioMed Realty Trust, worked with design firm Tsoi/Kobus & Associates of Cambridge, Massachusetts, to design lab-ready shell/core space in three new buildings, organized to define a new courtyard and linked with bridges.
The minimalist design fits in with the existing campus context, with simple lab bars clad in stone. Glazing brings daylight into the laboratories, which line the perimeter and have views of the surrounding forest. Other sustainability strategies include reflective roofing and high-efficiency mechanical systems; employees at Landmark at Eastview have access to a complementary shuttle service to nearby Metro-North Railroad stations. The local office of KlingStubbins built out two of the three buildings; BAM Studio of New York City built out the third, completed this year, which is connected to its counterparts by a bridge equipped with glass walls, a winding path, and lounge-style furniture to encourage interaction.
8. Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh
Famous for the world’s first cloned animal, Dolly the sheep, the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh undertakes research related to the health and welfare of animals, and human and veterinary medicine. To accommodate its rapid expansion, the institute teamed with the university’s Scottish Agricultural College and the Royal Veterinary School to construct a new facility at the Easter Bush campus.
Designed by the London office of HDR Inc. and completed this year, the facility takes inspiration from the human chromosome: the upper floors each pair a “strand” of laboratories with a “strand” of offices and meeting rooms, with social spaces and circulation linkages in between. Most offices are open plan, and none requires air conditioning, instead relying on operable windows, exterior sunshades, the concrete structure’s thermal mass, and six skylights that serve as exhaust chimneys. Four light wells with colored glazing illuminate the atrium, which incorporates formal and informal meeting areas.
9. Van Andel Institute
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN
At the heart of the Medical Mile life sciences corridor in Grand Rapids, Amway cofounder Jay Van Andel established the Van Andel Institute in 1996. The independent research and education organization is devoted to biomedical research, particularly related to cancer and neurological diseases. The first phase of the facility opened in 2000; the second, completed in 2009, added 240,000 square feet (22,300 sq m) to bring the facility to 400,000 square feet (37,000 sq m). Rafael Viñoly Architects, based in New York City, designed both phases.
The facility references the city’s namesake rapids with a glazed roof cascading down the terraced floors, which follow the site’s steep slopes and give occupants extensive views of downtown. The skylight roof’s translucent glass, combined with open-plan labs, brings daylight deep into the upper floor plates. Vibration- and light-sensitive spaces, such as the auditorium and animal vivarium, are tucked into the hillside on the lower floors. The second phase received LEED Platinum certification; sustainable strategies include a heat recovery system and photovoltaic panels.
10. Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery
The publicly funded Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, part of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and the independent not-for profit Morgridge Institute for Research joined forces to create this facility in the heart of the campus. Each floor has a dedicated research workspace for each institute, as well as a shared research workspace. There are no long, straight corridors; instead, flexible, open spaces serve for both circulation and interaction.
The ground floor, dubbed the town center, connects the facility with the larger community. A 250-seat circular forum for public presentations has retractable walls enabling it to host larger gatherings. Each of the upper floors also incorporates a teaching lab for educational outreach. Other amenities include glass atriums and a garden featuring Mesozoic plants. Opened in 2010, the facility was designed by Philadelphia-based Ballinger and Milwaukee-based Uihlein Wilson Architects.