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16 May 2016

WIRED Magazine Features London’s Francis Crick Institute

HOK_Francis Crick Institute CGI Reception area

WIRED explores how the design of this new 980,000-sq.-ft. biomedical and translational research center encourages collaboration and interaction among diverse groups of researchers.

This biomedical research institute—the biggest in Europe—will welcome 1,250 researchers from six institutions to study cancer, neurodegenerative conditions and infectious diseases. With 1,553 rooms and a floor area of nearly 93,000 square meters, the challenge for the Crick isn’t just to bring them under the same roof; it’s how to make them work together. ‘The whole building is designed specifically to encourage people to interact,’ says Jim Smith, director of research.

“To avoid the ‘silo effect,’ the Crick has no departments—instead, researchers from divergent fields have been allocated labs in what [Sir Paul Nurse, director of the Francis Crick Institute,] calls ‘gentle anarchy.’ (As a study progresses, scientists will be moved into different ‘interest groups.’) Team leaders’ offices are too small to hold big meetings—so these will take place in a collaboration space. The labs, each with rooms for tissue culturing, instruments and microscopes, are arranged to accommodate teams of up to a dozen scientists.

biomedical and translational research centers

“‘We intentionally placed groups from different disciplines next to each other,’ says Nurse, 67. Although chemists’ need for specialised equipment meant they had to be clustered.”

“On the Crick’s ground floor, a 450-seat auditorium and exhibition space sit next to a cafeteria that holds 450 people. To achieve this, Nurse had to overrule Camden Council, which wanted staff from the facility to patronise local restaurants. ‘The canteen was crucial,’ Nurse explains. ‘Francis Crick, the biophysicist who revealed the genetic code in 1953, was an advocate of discussing scientific ideas over food and drink. He believed the best collaborative ideas arose during informal moments.’”