sbarc | spark, Cardiff University\

Combining academia with industry

Cardiff University’s ‘home of innovation’ is the world’s first social science research park

Designed to bring together and synergise commercial tenants with university academics, the new hub for Cardiff University provides a welcoming, active and open facility for innovation, enterprise and collaboration.

Situated within the heart of the campus, the 12,000 sq m building has been purposefully designed as a social science building that inspires out-of-the-ordinary thinking.

With a variety of workspaces, recreational spaces, laboratories and exhibition areas, sbarc|spark supports the University’s mission to promote interdisciplinary knowledge sharing.


sq m
of commercial space

The big idea

After developing an initial concept, we worked with a people-flow modelling consultant to properly encourage social interaction.

At the heart of the space is the “Oculus”, a sculptural staircase that ascends through a slanted void that travels the full height of the seven-storey building. At ground floor level, the staircase forms a key element of the welcome to the building, with banks of seating either side of the stairs forming a ‘social staircase’ that also doubles as an auditorium for events.

Rising through the building, the staircase forms a ‘spiral of collaboration’ with breakout zones on the landings of each level creating a lively activity zone in the centre of each floorplate.

Users of the building are separated by activity type rather than department, with collaborative functions placed closest to the Oculus and more private, concentrated work taking place at the building’s perimeter.

The ground floor includes public engagement areas for celebrating research and industry partnerships, including an event space that can be curated in different ways to showcase what’s happening in the building. The Play Box is fully accessible to visitors, including a café with large sharing tables which draw together commercial tenants and academic researchers alongside the public and the wider university faculty.

On the ground floor, incubator hubs – such as the RemakerSpace, a space to remake and reuse – are integrated with co-working spaces. The fourth and fifth floors house small and medium units, intended to be let to commercial tenants and entrepreneurs, as well as dedicated wet labs and a roof terrace for hosting formal events, with great views across Cardiff. The top floor provides a mixture of uses with space for large units, a function room, board room and kitchen, with a dedicated roof terrace.

“Spark will boost Cardiff’s reputation as a capital for job creation, a source of highly-skilled graduates and a flourishing home of innovation.”

Professor Riordan Cardiff University President and Vice-Chancellor

“The Innovation Campus plays an important part in the University’s role in nurturing future talent while connecting researchers, graduates, entrepreneurs and funders.”

Julia Roberts Partner and Education & Research Sector Lead at Hawkins\Brown

Project Summary


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

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