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Biologic: Heide & von Beckerath’s Biobank

A storage facility for biological materials in Berlin offers spaces for study and a place for passersby to sit

The BiotechPark at Campus Berlin-Buch (with the amiable acronym BBB) has, following €439 million in government and EU funding, expanded into a sprawling modern site for clinical research and biotechnology. ‘We are very interested in striving to find the appropriate technique to fit the architectural concept’, say Heide & von Beckerath, the architects behind the campus’s latest addition, and BBB offers a challenge in this regard through both its architectural landscape – the usual campus mix of the blocky functional and the questionably glass-clad – and its programmatic, science-oriented requirements.

Tim Heide’s history in industrial design, architecture and craft combined with Verena von Beckerath’s studies in sociology, psychology and art history see the Berlin-based duo able to pull off conceptually rich and programmatically complex schemes with a seductive neatness. ‘Berlin seems like a laboratory for architecture and urban transformation’, say the pair, and their favourite project – a recent foray into cohousing with ifau und Jesko Fezer entitled R50 – is a prime example of this. 

lbr 02 plan ja

lbr 02 plan ja

Plan

Their Biobank, however, is a far more modest space, one primarily for the storage of samples for a duration of 30 years as well as a small amount of administrative space with workstations. Sitting to the north-east of the campus between the bulk of the main research facilities, the Biobank is split horizontally into two halves – a white aluminium-clad hat marking out the storage tanks and a timber-clad lower section delineating the office – with a skirt of seating running around the perimeter giving the whole structure the appearance of hovering.

With a liquid nitrogen tank brought into the square plan to nestle in one corner, the Biobank exudes an industrial-science chic, and shifting all of the technical installation to the roof has freed up the concrete workspaces to be bright and clean-cut. In plan and section these are all fairly simple gestures, but not necessarily the most obvious – in such a small space requiring two very disparate functions they have made all the difference. 

lbr 03 section ja

lbr 03 section ja

Section

Biobank

Architect: Heide & von Beckerath 

Project team: Jack Wilson (project leader), Aske Andersen, Daniel Bruns, Stefan Dietzel, François Vaugoyeau 

Structural engineer: StudioC

Photographs: Andrew Alberts