"Concentrations of colour are provided where there are the most intense concentrations of people, notably the highly activated core of the building, which houses meeting rooms, lunchrooms, lifts, toilets and the stairway."
Edwards says the dramatic sculptural form of the stairway was designed to encourage staff to use the stairs rather than lifts.
"We needed to provide opportunities for people to connect and interact informally. Initially, the client thought this might have been a waste of space that could otherwise be used for laboratories, but we recognised that it would help to break down territorial boundaries, which was extremely important. An open stair avoids barricades it opens up each floor rather than closing it off."
The extensive use of natural timber, which can be seen in the stair balustrading, ceiling panels and in other circulation areas, was designed to help humanise the very sterile, controlled environment of the laboratories.
"Here again the patterns were extracted from research images. The repeating hexagonal pattern references cellular imagesa pattern we kept seeing over and over," the architect says. "The researchers were strongly engaged in this entire process, which has helped them accept and feel part of the project."
Edwards says this was particularly crucial in view of the substantial changes introduced to the work environment.
"This building represents a radical departure from the established orthodoxy for laboratory buildings," he says. "The whole design is aimed at encouraging collaboration, interaction and flexibility. Research scientists are no longer isolated, and we have rearranged the conventional layout of a research facility, whereby laboratories and office desks are in close proximity. Surveys show that researchers today spend more time in their offices analysing data from experiments carried out remotely. They are better served in an environment where they can talk to colleagues and exchange ideas."
To this end, Hames Sharley placed communal areas between the laboratories and offices, and provided views through glass back into the labs.
"We also placed meeting rooms in the central core, which avoids them being colonised by any one group. Everything is shared, and this in itself, required an entirely new management procedure, and trust on the part of the researchers. Laboratory consumables are not kept on individual benches; they are dispensed from a central store. This has meant the labs are much less cluttered, because nothing is hoarded."
Edwards says laboratories, by their very nature, can be visually chaotic. The new operating system helps to avoid this. So, too, does the white colour of the walls and ceilings. In contrast, the main circulation route alongside each laboratory is defined by a black ceiling.
"We gave each neighbourhood an identity, however. Each floor is colour coded filing cabinets and glass panels at the end of each row of workstations are brightly coloured.