Science and Architecture

Science – molecular, physical, biological - and  its relationship to the wider world - science and business, science and art – is are the heart of contemporary discovery; science buildings proliferate and have become the engine of campus planning wihile their traditionally closed and singular nature has come under scrutiny from those who find the scientists worlds mysterious and forbidding and from scientists wishing to expand their working practice to provide connectivity and reflection in an laboratory context. In a world governed by uncertainty, increasing emphasis on universal flexibility creates spaces which can be re-purposed or quickly remodelled to suit new ways of doing things. Hence the typology is changing- pushed to become more accommodating, more transparent, more public, and yet more complex in servicing and in function, developing into an abstract platform for possibility in ideas, in a series of spaces which move from laboratory to research to discussion and contemplation.  This growing reality is located in specific urban or landscape contexts, or even the confines of existing buildings-creating interesting potentialities  for abstraction/place. McCullough Mulvin recently participated in two competitions for science- one in Lausanne University in Switzerland, the other in UCD in Ireland; in both cases, the practice designed buildings which reflected interests in synergies between science and architecture.  The Sciences de la Vie building in Lausanne, a 27,000 m2 structure for undergraduate microbiology linked to a research facility for neuroscience was designed in conjunction with Arup, Wilson Architects (USA ) and Transsolar. It was located in the Dorigny section of the campus ;the site was on the hill overlooking the lake and the mountains and set between several existing facilities. In its developed form, the design was essentially about a layered response to landscape;- observing it, creating it, moulding it. The buidling  displaced space around it, creating a series of new  urban ‘rooms’’against the existing blocks ; internally it was formed around two science ‘plates’ held with a perimeter of raised gardens and open spaces overlooking the lake; the joint between the two blocks became a significant public space for this part of the University. The form was raised up to allow the same view to the lake and the mountains for the buildings behind, public space extending in and under it to reach a lower ‘valley’ cut into the existing terrain. The UCD project – providing research laboratories and meeting rooms – was to be built partly within the confines of a Protected Structure; the scheme provided a new field of play- utterly contemporary requirements, light, air, flexibility, collegiate connectivity against the old walls and roofs. The energy of science was housed in  a mixture of new and older spaces- one a secret  18th century courtyard lined out with glazed corridors and meeting rooms; the other a wing of dual aspect flexible and well-lit contemporary laboratories to one side of the 18th century Palladian house.