Designing science buildings for innovation and collaboration


Landing space with blackboard in the Beecroft Building, Oxford University (Hawkins Brown)

News that scientists are testing for a Coronavirus vaccine at Oxford University prompted Future Cities Forum this week to speak to architects Hawkins\Brown, about the science buildings and laboratories that they are designing for the university where medical breakthroughs are happening.

Partner Oliver Milton heads up the education and science sector at Hawkins\Brown which has completed Oxford University's Beecroft Building for physics research and is currently working on the second stage of the university's Bio-Chemistry Building, which has become recognised according to the architectural firm, as a new model for university research buildings.

There has been much discussion in recent years about what is needed in terms of the best environments for scientists to work in collaboratively, but also the standard of facilities that will continue to attract global talent to UK universities. The UK government is currently investing heavily in life sciences innovation and over the last week has opened up funds for science 'start-ups' in its determination to ensure that the UK remains a world leader in science discovery and commercialisation.

Oliver is a member of 'Designers for Science' a group which discusses the latest trends in science architecture. At Hawkins\Brown the practice states that 'it reverses the accepted layout that collects the laboratories in the dark centre of the building and instead puts them on the outside where they have contact with the outside world and are highly visible to the wider university community. This allows the 'write up' of teaching spaces and principal investigators offices to be collected around a busy atrium at the heart of the building.

'This interconnected way of working has incre