Project of the month: Materials Science Building, Cambridge
Willmott Dixon has completed this £48m new facility for the Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy at the University of Cambridge.
Designed by architect NBBJ, it contains a mix of laboratories for processing of metals, materials chemistry and the development of medical materials, plus support facilities, offices and social space spread over a 10,600 sq m footprint.
The facility is one of the best-adapted places for electron microscopy in the world, with the low-vibration requirements influencing the organisation and space zoning, the structural frame, building fabric and the location of plant.
It required a two-metre deep foundation slab to attenuate vibrations, containing 1,350 cum of concrete which had to be poured continuously over 24 hours, a technical feat that Willmott Dixon says involved five cranes and a queue of 200 concrete trucks on the adjacent M11.
The building houses a mix of labs plus support facilities, offices and social space. The brickwork detailing is a design reference to the work inside
The concrete mix was designed by structural engineer Ramboll and included limestone aggregate to enhance its resistance to thermal changes.
NBBJ has related the exterior to the work going on inside: the recessed and projecting bricks are arranged in patterns analogous to the grain-like microstructure of the metals being researched within. The bricks also animate the surfaces when viewed from different angles.
Professor Lindsay Greer, from the Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy, said: “This was a complex project that had to accommodate activities from very sensitive nano science to heavy duty experiments generating vibration that had to be isolated from each other. This was a tremendous challenge, which makes the sense of achievement all the greater.”