The £82 million Sainsbury Laboratory by London-based architecture firm Stanton Williams has been shortlisted for the 2012 RIBA Stirling Prize for architecture. The 11,000 square-meter laboratory was honored with a nomination based upon its high level of energy efficiency and its elegant and sustainable approach towards its site in Cambridge University’s Botanic Garden. With much pomp and circumstance in England centered on the London 2012 Olympics right now, the awe-inspiring laboratory has been shortlisted for this prestigious British architectural award alongside the much publicized London Olympic Stadium.
The Sainsbury Laboratory is a plant research center that brings together some of the greatest scientists in an environment that is influenced by the natural gardens that surround the building. Daylight floods into the interior of the laboratories by way of white ceiling scoops set high above the laboratory equipment. Natural materials, such as limestone, help to create layers within the building that begin to peel away to the gardens beyond. The building is laid out in a crisp L-shape with a meandering circulation route, which creates a strong cloistered language for the classrooms and laboratories. Not only does the circulation route allow for the occupant to experience the natural beauty of the gardens, but it also helps to create a sequence of flexible spaces. The flexibility of spaces within the building will help the classrooms and laboratory grow and adjust throughout the years, which make this new typology in laboratory design an economically sustainable alternative.
The building’s sustainability does not stop with the flexibility of space. The building has achieved a BREEAM excellent rating. This rating was awarded based upon the project’s sustainable features such as its 1000 square meters of photovoltaic panels and its rainwater collection system, which irrigates the gardens. Stanton Williams and their team of consultants understood the importance of nature’s role in the building, and made sure that the building sustained that beauty.
As stated on the RIBA Stirling Prize website, “the prize is presented to the architects of the building that has made the greatest contribution to the evolution of architecture over the past year”. Surely Stanton Williams’ Sainsbury Laboratory is worthy of the £20,0000 prize.