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    Sainsbury Laboratory Stirling Prize

    continued

    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 Path

    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.

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    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.

    Echoing Kahn

    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.

    The Stirling Prize

    A first-time Stirling Prize win for Stanton Williams, the Sainsbury Laboratory was chosen from a shortlist of six 2012 Stirling Prize nominees. Among the other nominated buidings were two projects designed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA): the Maggie's Center Gartnavel, in Glasgow, Scotland; and the New Court, the new London offices of NM Rothschild & Sons, with Allies and Morrison as architect of record. The remaining project shortlist included the London Olympic Stadium, by Populous; the Hepworth Wakefield museum by David Chipperfield Architects; and the Lyric Theatre, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by O'Donnell + Tuomey.

    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.

    Recent winners include Evelyn Grace Academy, in London, and MAXXI, the Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo, in Rome, Itally, both designed by Zaha Hadid; Maggie's Center in London, by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners; Accordia housing development by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Alison Brooks Architects, and Maccreanor Lavington; the Museum of Modern Literature by David Chipperfield Architects; the Scottish Parliament by EMBT/ RMJM; 30 St. Mary Axe by Foster + Partners; the Laban Centre by Herzog and de Meuron; and Gateshead Millennium Bridge by Wilkinson Eyre Architects.

    Project Credits

    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
    Photography: Hufton+Crow   >>>

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    David Owen is the managing production editor of ArchitectureWeek. More by David Owen

     

    ArchWeek Image
    SUBSCRIPTION SAMPLE

    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 + Crow Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image
    SUBSCRIPTION SAMPLE

    The recessed entry of the Sainsbury Laboratory stands partway along a gradually sloping path that leads through the building into a private courtyard.
    Photo: Hufton + Crow Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    The building's main meeting room is located along the sloping entry path.
    Photo: Hufton + Crow Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Sainsbury Laboratory ground-floor plan drawing.
    Image: Stanton Williams Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image
    SUBSCRIPTION SAMPLE

    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 + Crow Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek 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 + Crow Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Sainsbury Laboratory section drawing along the main "path," looking east.
    Image: Stanton Williams Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Along the east-west axis of the Sainsbury building, a two-story lobby space offers sheltered seating with a view of the courtyard.
    Photo: Hufton + Crow Extra Large Image

     

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