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Competition: Cambridge biomedical campus expansion, England

The University of Cambridge has launched a competition to masterplan a new extension to its 28 hectare biomedical campus (Deadline: 8 August)

Organised by Colander Associates, the contest seeks proposals to expand the prestigious district which currently hosts around 12,000 healthcare professionals and research scientists.

The winning architect-led team will masterplan several key sites near the campus’ main entrance on Hills Road to deliver a new school of clinical medicine.



The Cambridge Biomedical Campus

A new institute of public health and neurosciences hub may also be delivered as part of the project alongside other supporting teaching, research and administration facilities.

According to the brief: ‘The university requires an investigation into options for the redevelopment of its key sites around the front of the biomedical campus.

‘This requires an investigation of the overall development capacity of the sites, constraints and local sensitivities as well as the opportunities.

‘It is anticipated this exercise will build on development guidelines outlined in the 2010 strategic masterplan and will establish parameters for future development.’

Located around four kilometres south of Cambridge city centre – the campus opened in 1962 when Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology relocated to the Hills Road Site.

Other leading institutes now occupying the site include the Rosie Hospital, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mental Health Trust and the university’s school of clinical medicine.



Campus aerial showing Herzog and De Meuron’s proposed AstraZeneca HQ

Since 1999 the university’s ‘2020 Vision’ – supported by Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the MRC – has encouraged further expansion and commercial development on the site.

London-based studios Allies and Morrison and Devereux Architects also completed a strategic masterplan for the entire campus six years ago.

RMJM completed a new £212 million home for the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology on the site three years ago. Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron is also working on a new £330 million headquarters for pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca which is due to complete next year.

Proposals for the latest facilities must deliver a ‘high-quality’, BREEAM excellent-minimum environment for researchers, students, patients and visitors while also improving public realm and other amenities.

The masterplan should furthermore consider access and circulation while boosting connectivity across the campus and creating new links between the university and its clinical and commercial neighbours.

Applicants must first submit an expression of interest and short prequalification questionnaire. Five shortlisted teams – due to be selected by 19 August – will then be invited to submit tenders and attend interviews in the fall.

How to apply


The deadline for submitting questions is 8 July and applications must be received by 12pm on 8 August.

Contact details

Louise Harrison
Hill House
Fox Hill
SE19 2XA

Tel: 020 8771 6445

View the contract notice for more information

Francis Crick Institute case study: Q&A with Bill Odell

The director of science and technology at HOK discusses lessons learned designing a new biomedical research centre in London



Bill Odell

What are the core requirements of a modern biomedical facility such as your Francis Crick Institute?

Biomedical research, as with research in most areas of science, is changing rapidly due to tremendous advances in technology. It is imperative that we design new laboratories to be highly flexible to the changing needs of science and easily adaptable in their reconfiguration and servicing (such as for adopting a kit of parts approach to lab furniture or a plug & play system for the services).

As a result, shared core support services such as imaging equipment, automated DNA sequencing equipment and high-throughput analytical equipment are more important and take up a larger portion of a building’s overall area. These advances mean that researchers have more time to spend outside of the lab, setting up new experiments, analysing results and discussing the implications with their colleagues. This puts more importance on the ‘soft’ spaces of a research facility and the communal areas outside the lab.



The Francis Crick Institute by HOK

Which design and architectural techniques are available to architects working in a similarly built-up urban area?

Context, character and scale are fundamental considerations when designing a research facility in an urban or campus context. Use of robust and appropriate materials protects the building in the environment, but should be balanced with significant glazed areas to give transparency and openness. Security is a primary concern with most research facilities. It can be achieved in passive, unobtrusive ways that do not compromise a welcoming, open and permeable appearance.

Though clues regarding the external expression are often derived from the surrounding buildings, a newly constructed facility may inspire a fresh, contemporary look that establishes a dialogue with its older neighbours. Displaying the functional organisation and technical requirements can result in an authentic character of dignified utility. Research buildings have significant mechanical equipment that sometimes gives expressive detail and hints about the internal functions. External shading devices add another level of visual interest and functional detail.



The Francis Crick Institute by HOK

Landscaped pocket gardens and external seating areas can enhance the setting of the building and provide a welcome place of repose for occupiers and the public. For highly complex projects such as the Francis Crick Institute, the use of building information modelling is critical to ensure an efficient, effective outcome. This virtual modelling software enabled the design team to gain a comprehensive understanding of the logistics of operations being accommodated and explore options in a highly collaborative environment. Creating full-size Polyboard mock-ups of the proposed space also enabled us to maximise the program on this tight urban site.

What considerations are important when masterplanning a high-quality scientific environment for the public, academic and commercial users?

There is tremendous global competition across many sectors for top talent. A key to attracting this talent, in addition to the scientific challenge itself, is the ambiance of the facilities. Labs need to have the best tools and equipment, and, given the long hours that researchers work, must be attractive, comfortable places.

Another important consideration is that employees need the ability to easily interact with their colleagues—not just in their own organisation but with others working in similar areas for other institutions. This will be vital in the development of the master plan for Cambridge. The plan will need to create social spaces that support a sense of community for all the researchers. A sense of community helps foster true collaboration between diverse disciplines.



The Francis Crick Institute by HOK