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6 July 2015

Nature Profiles Design of the Francis Crick Institute “Superlab” in London


The HOK-designed Francis Crick Institute will be one of Europe’s largest biomedical and translational research centers. Nature explores the innovative design and the potential benefits this “superlab” will provide to the scientific community.

“When the £700-million (US$1.1-billion), 93,000-square-meter institute reaches full capacity by 2021, it will house some 1,600 scientists and support staff, making it Europe’s single largest biomedical lab.”

“Even in a city filled with glass and steel megastructures, the Francis Crick Institute is an imposing landmark. Paul Nurse [the institute’s first director and chief executive], who was knighted in 1999, says that his employees sometimes call it ‘Sir Paul’s cathedral.’

“Perched on the edge of the city’s revitalized King’s Cross area, the building dwarfs the neighbouring British Library — the biggest public structure erected in Britain in the twentieth century.”

“The institute feels even larger inside, where hard hats, safety glasses and steel-toed boots were still mandatory as of May. Hallways of glass-fronted open-plan labs stretch almost the length of two football fields on either side of an expansive atrium, over several lofty floors. To orient people, the walls are colored by floor and a smartphone app is being developed. … Its four basement levels will house sensitive equipment such as electron microscopes, shielded by concrete slabs to block the ever-present vibrations from nearby train and tube lines. Construction has begun on a high-containment lab for working on influenza and other deadly pathogens.”

“Like many new laboratories, the Crick is designing spaces to encourage interactions between researchers. Each above-ground floor centers around meeting rooms, tea and coffee stations, and ‘collaboration spaces,’ meant to increase the odds of fruitful encounters.”

“‘That’s one of the things I’m most excited about,’ says James Briscoe, a developmental biologist who is moving to the Crick from the NIMR.”



The Francis Crick Institute will be “the largest single lab in Europe” and “is set to change the world,” says Dr. Sam Godfrey of Cancer Research UK.