sbarc | spark, Cardiff University\

Combining academia with industry

The Innovation Campus building will be the world's first social science research park, co-locating leading researchers, practitioners and policy makers.

The vision

Within the 12,000m sq building, there will be 2,800m sq of commercial units for spin outs and start-up businesses. This will include 500m sq of commercial wet lab space.

To support the social science research the building will integrate the ReMaker Space Centre, a behavioural lab, a fabrication lab, a visualisation lab, and a TV studio. The ground floor will be a public space used to celebrate and communicate the vision. A key part of this is the ‘Play Box’, a flexible auditorium made up of big steps and pull-out flexible seating cubes which could host Ted X style events.


sq m
of commercial space

The challenge

The building brings together commercial tenants and university academics. To help link these two user groups, the design needs to create a stimulating setting for creative interactions and collaborations; allowing the space and support necessary to both accelerate start up growth and also to achieve a step change in promoting impactful inter-disciplinary research and translational innovation activity.

The big idea

The 'Oculus' is a sculptural; open staircase travelling through a slanting void. The aim of the Oculus is to drive engagements and collaborations between the varying uses of the building. It starts at the ground floor as a social stair and forms breakout zones to each level, which are curated differently, becoming destinations to users on other floors.

A short animation showing Cardiff Innovation Centre using Unreal Engine gaming technology.


Activities within the building require very different environments - from quiet spaces for the behavioural lab to the buzzing public ground floor. The building needs to respond to this, whilst creating a flexible, re-programmable floor plate. We have designed the building by activity instead of department, using 'activity based working', with the more private, secure spaces further away from the Oculus and the open plan / breakout zones hugging it.

Let's showcase

Researchers want to engage, collaborate and promote; the façade enables the activity within the building to be seen from outside, particularly around the Oculus. The ground floor 'Play box' maximises the amount of glazing, to blur the line between the inside and out. A restaurant and event space, makes it a great place for staff and the public to meet, learn, network and enjoy in a hub of world class research, creativity, knowledge, discussion, and debate.

Project Summary


  • BD Architect of the Year Awards 2017 - Higher Education - Shortlisted

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