As it celebrates its 50th anniversary the University of Sussex has recognised the pivotal role the School of Life Sciences has played in establishing its reputation as one of the leading institutions in the UK by delivering its new state of the art research and teaching institution.
Hawkins\Brown started working with the University in April 2015. The project’s development marks a significant shift in the scale of the School. The co-location of the departments of Biomedicine, Drug Discovery, Instrumental Chemistry and Biology will foster a new approach to teaching and interdisciplinary research that will allow collaborative and explorative work to flourish.
We have worked closely with the School to refine their initial brief and mission statement for the project. This included extensive discussions about growth in research and student numbers, the quantum and type of space required to deliver their current work and what degree of adaptability should be provided to account for the likelihood that research groups and teaching trends can change and shift focus. A further component of the project is the development of the Sussex Bio-Innovation centre as a research focussed branch of Sussex Innovation. Hawkins\Brown have assisted the University’s business plan development and LEP funding application.
Furthermore we have engaged extensively with wider University stakeholders and external consultants, including Hoare Lea to ensure the scheme is developing in line with their wider campus masterplan, current enabling works and day-to-day operational strategies. The project is currently concluding its RIBA Stage 04 technical design and has been submitted for planning with a view to starting on site next year.
The 17,800 sq m building is comprised of five occupied floor levels, these floors include the re-purposing of an existing building. The building’s main entrance faces north in anticipation of a new public square being developed in front of it. Most shared, public facing facilities are located on the ground floor, the teaching laboratories and their supporting facilities on the first floor and finally the research laboratories and their office space on the top two floors. Creative circulation areas characterise the in-between spaces on all floors which give the users space to study, think and engage in discussion.
The building design has tackled the need for flexibility from concept stage. A sensible structural grid has been employed; services/stair cores and circulation are located to the perimeter of the building to avoid limiting the adaptability of the floor plate. A tried and tested 3.3x3.3m space planning grid is coordinated with the structural grid which allows a number of scenarios to be planned within the same space. The services strategy and detailed infrastructures have been optimised- to allow for drop down services from above; movable furniture will be used to allow for short term room changes where appropriate.
The University site was first developed by Sir Basil Spence in the 1960s and can lay claim to having the largest concentration of listed buildings of this period in the UK. The Life Sciences building’s material palette remains true to the context of the campus, its simple composition exists as a two storey scalloped brick plinth with a two storey concrete and glazed box sitting upon it. These two shifting materials strongly relate to the bold architectural moves by Basil Spence that can be found all over the campus. Their construction will be executed through the use of an innovative pre-cast modular system, simplifying on site installation, and accelerating the construction programme.