Francis Crick Institute

Type: Research & Education
Location: London, UK
Year: 2014
Status: completed
Contribution: Computational Design for Roof Structure
Office: PLP Architecture, HOK
Awards: BE Inspired Awards
PLP – The Francis Crick Institute
BE Inspired: Francis Crick Institute
Francis Crick Institute


The Francis Crick Institute is an extraordinary example of collaborative work in science today. A consortium of six of the UK’s largest organisations for biomedical research, the Institute brings together multidisciplinary groups of researchers including biologists, chemists, physicists, engineers, computer scientists and mathematicians to develop ground-breaking research for the improvement of human health. To house this centre, we devised a building that operates both as a complex laboratory as well as a place for collaboration and exchange.

The location for the new Francis Crick Institute is highly significant: rather than being banished to the outskirts of the city, the building faces St Pancras International Station – one of the main points of arrival into the UK and sits next to the British Library – one the world’s most revered institutions.

PLP was selected in 2010 to collaborate with HOK in shaping the building’s distinctive form and striking architectural expression. Our approach was to lift the laboratory building as an architectural typology to the status of a major civic institution, equal in standing to the two adjacent landmarks. Whilst conventional laboratories are generally inward looking and defensive, we conceived the building as a deliberately transparent and public place. We extended the street inside, organized key functions around it and maximised the potential for interaction between it and the inner life of the building. The resulting configuration acknowledges that research is as much about interaction and social life as it is about lab work.

The Francis Crick Institute will create the United Kingdom’s foremost biomedical research facility through a unique collaboration between Cancer Research UK, The Medical Research Council, The Wellcome Trust, University College London (UCL), Imperial College London and King’s College London. PLP Architecture was invited to collaborate with HOK architects on the development of the design with a particular focus on external massing, public realm design and elevational treatment. The resultant building creates a state-of-the-art research centre of excellence that supports the scientific goals of the institute and promotes public engagement. The design is respectful of the architectural heritage of the local area in its responsiveness to its large civic neighbours to the south and east – St. Pancras International and the British Library – and the smaller scale residential buildings of Somers Town to the north and west. The distinctive vaulted roof recalls the form of the adjacent Barlow Shed at St. Pancras International. As in the station, the delicate engineering of the roof is contrasted with the robust masonry of the base of the building which creates richly textured elevations at street level. Innovative architectural and engineering design will deliver a highly sustainable building. The Francis Crick Institute building will be welcoming and accessible; open to the public for lectures, exhibitions, with a teaching laboratory for school children.

About eikeschling

Dr.-Ing. | Architect BYAK Assistant Professor in Architectural Structures The University of Hong Kong

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