AstraZeneca Discovery Center is “a landscape of different situations”
Visit AstraZeneca’s brand new research and development center, The Discovery Center, designed by Herzog & de Meuron in Cambridge, UK
Approaching the Cambridge Discovery Center, designed by Herzog & Meuron for pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, the building clearly stands out in its immediate surroundings. Relatively low, intricately sculpted and elegant in appearance, this new research and development center, part of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC), is located in a part of the city that is currently under development – the Cambridge Southern Fringe Area. Modern on the inside, subtle on the outside, its design credentials cleverly belies its size.
This, along with its need for flexibility, were the main drivers of the design, explains Stefan Marbach, partner of Herzog & Meuron: “We consciously wanted to keep the building low, with three floors, to ensure easy connections inside. . Due to its round shape, it never looks too big. At the same time, it is a landscape of different situations.
The Discovery Center has been under construction since 2013, when the Anglo-Swedish multinational AstraZeneca commissioned a hub from the main Swiss architecture studio to bring together its various research facilities and innovation laboratories. The building now includes these as well as offices, meeting spaces, a conference center, auditorium, café and restaurant.
The AstraZeneca building defends transparency and light
Part of the brief was to create a “porous” structure, a building that can be integrated into the local community and landscape; and the Discovery Center hopes to achieve it. Designed in a loosely circular form – or rather, perhaps more accurately, a triangular floor plan with rounded edges – it contains a green central courtyard that will remain open and accessible to the public, perhaps aimed at shattering the reputation that considers scientific laboratories as more opaque, mysterious places, insular. Outside the strict perimeter of the building, lush architectural gardens, dotted with works of art, stretch outward and it’s hard to tell where the center ends and the public realm begins. Visitors and passers-by can sit on the lawns anywhere.
Inside, with the exception of the lab areas (which are cleverly designed to be ‘plug-and-play’ for maximum flexibility, Marbach explains), the interior is mostly occupied by open-plan workspaces. “Light and transparency were key elements in the design,” notes Marbach. Bringing natural light deep into the floor plate was a key element for Herzog & de Meuron, who opened up views throughout the space, added glass partitions and perforated holes to connect the floors, in order to ” improve the idea of collaboration and cross-pollination between departments within AstraZeneca.
The choice of materials clearly defines the different areas of the building. There is natural stone for the entrances; Rough sawn solid oak for the sculptural main staircase and interior ring area; and carpet for desks and other floors in workspaces. Ducts and services are hidden under the floor in most areas, but are exposed, suspended from the ceiling, in laboratories, signifying the change of use. Smart ventilation frequently recycles the air inside and helps keep temperatures stable.
A sawtooth roof allows light to pass through the openings and continues the theme of the high performance sawtooth glass facade, which helps break down the overall volume. This feature also refers in an abstract way to the historic architecture of Cambridge colleges (in the same way that the central courtyard alludes to a contemporary version of the university quadrant).
The building was just inaugurated by HRH Prince Charles, who highlighted the structure’s net zero approach, citing his recently launched Terra Carta seal, awarded to private sector companies that stand out for their sustainability efforts. Indeed, elegant and technologically advanced, the structure also presents solid references in terms of sustainable architecture, such as the use of geothermal energy, recycled rainwater and the intelligent use of natural light and natural light. shading. It is a tailored approach to the building – with its cutting-edge research and high-level controlled environments – that is home to some of the most advanced sciences in the world. §