Designing a headquarters to bring 500 staff onto one site for the world’s largest medical research charity raised many challenges for us. Facing Euston Road (one of London’s busiest traffic arteries), the building adjoins the Trust’s existing premises, a grand neo-classical building. To the rear, it faces the contrasting scale and texture of the 19th century Bloomsbury grid and Greek Revival forecourt of University College London.
The Trust felt that it had very little public presence and that their existing building gave them few opportunities for contact between staff in the various departments within the organisation. The design for the building sought to promote an engagement between the Trust, the public realm around it, and the private space within the building. The organisation and layout of the spaces is designed to encourage interaction between the staff at all levels, from the accidental and informal, to the formal and most confidential.
Key to the design is the cross section: a high, wide block faces Euston Road, with a lower block on the south side. Over both is a curving roof, and between them is a generous atrium. This composition means the entire ground floor can be used as one huge floorplate, linked to the existing headquarters. Above this, each floor of the northern block has five large 18m by 12m bays, separated by service cores, and with double height mini-atria to break down the large, open working areas into focused spaces for rapid and casual interaction between team members. The narrower southern block offers more conventional space for cellular or open-plan layouts. On its top floor, open to the roof and atrium, is a restaurant with views across University College London and Bloomsbury.