From the entry, this path slopes gently downward, past a public meeting room, into a multistory lobby space, and onward through glazed walls into a courtyard whose western side is formed by trees that Professor Henslow planted.
The lobby is L-shaped in plan, wrapping around two sides of the courtyard and providing the building's primary vertical and horizontal circulation throughout all three floors.
Public and private programmatic elements are functionally divided between building floors. The ground floor contains public spaces, including the auditorium, other meeting rooms, and a public cafe that helps to separate the courtyard from the public gardens, forming a buffer between public and private zones.
The top floor of the Sainsbury Laboratory — physically separated from, but visually connected with the gardens — is devoted to the building's research laboratories, offices, and support space.
Stanton Williams sees the building's spaces as linked by one continuous path — the lobby space. To the firm, the "path" is a reference to "Darwin's 'thinking path', a way to reconcile nature and thought through the activity of walking." With continuous glazing on its courtyard side, and selective glimpses into the laboratory's working spaces on the other, this circulation space is intended to foster connections: between fellow scientists, between inside and out, and between building and garden.
The Sainsbury Laboratory echos the iconic research-laboratory designs of Louis Kahn, in the organization of the labs and in the way that building services are delivered. The upper floor of Sainsbury is configured with office space on one side of a double-loaded corridor and laboratory space on the other.
Each open lab is supported by an enclosed services room that runs along the edge of this corridor, providing a clear buffer and limiting the entrance points. Inside the labs, an alternating arrangement of deep concrete beams and skylights powerfully recalls Kahn. Although, where the concrete beams were typically left exposed in Kahn's work, each structural beam in Sainsbury is hidden by still-deeper curve-sided false beams that spread the incoming daylight and also appear to deliver at least some building services throughout the lab.
The familiar result is an evenly lit work space that is free of columns and other vertical supports.
A portion of the facade also seems an homage to the modernist master. A grid of deep-set upper-floor niches along one side of the courtyard is finished in glass and exposed wood, similar the courtyard facades of the Salk Institute. From floor level up to around normal ceiling height, the niches open inward, creating a series of nooks along the southern leg of the main lobby. These spaces provide informal seating for between one and three people. Above the nooks, the niches open outward to form exterior shelves that reflect daylight deep into the building.
Even with this nod to Kahn, the building's exterior is an overwhelmingly contemporary composition that emphasizes its horizontality and contrasts the cast-in-place concrete structure with copious amounts of glazing and finely detailed limestone cladding.
The building was funded by The Gatsby Charitable Foundation, a grant-making trust founded by Lord David Sainsbury.
Commissioned artwork by the artists Susanna Herron, William Pye, and Norman Ackroyd are found inside with the building.
Now in its 17th year, the Stirling Prize is awarded annually by RIBA, with cosponsor The Architects' Journal. Named after the architect James Stirling (1926-1992), the £20,000 prize honors an exemplary building either built in Britain or designed by a firm whose principal office is in Britain and built elsewhere in the European Union.
Architect: Stanton Williams
Client: University of Cambridge
Civil and Structural Engineer: Adams Kara Taylor
Building Services Engineer: Arup
Contractor: Kier Regional
Funder: The Gatsby Charitable Foundation
Strategic Project Manager: Stuart A. Johnson Consulting Ltd
Project and Contract Administrator: Hannah - Reed
Project Officer: University of Cambridge Estate Management
Representative Users: Cambridge University Botanic Garden, The Gatsby Charitable Foundation
Cost Consultant: Gardiner & Theobald
Landscape Architects: Christopher Bradley-Hole Landscape and Schoenaich Landscape Architects
CDM Coordinator: Hannah — Reed
Approved Building Inspector: Cambridge City Council
Artists: Norman Ackroyd, Susanna Heron, William Pye
Furniture Consultant: Luke Hughes and Company
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Located on the upper level of the BREEAM Excellent-rated Sainsbury Laboratory, the main lab spaces receive diffuse daylight from above and reflected daylight from their sides. Photo: Hufton + CrowExtra Large Image
At the crossing of two major axes Ś which form the northern and eastern sides of the building's courtyard Ś the main path intersects with several other routes that serve the three floors of the building, before continuing onward into the courtyard. Photo: Hufton + CrowExtra Large Image
Looking back towards the entrance of the Sainsbury Laboratory, along its major north-south axis, one sees stairs leading to the lowermost and uppermost levels. Photo: Hufton + CrowExtra Large Image