HOK worked on the Francis Crick Institute for more than seven years. The firm was as much a mediator as it was the project’s architect and designer.
The 980,000-sf, $931 million facility is the result of a unique financing mechanism that brought together three of the U.K.’s heaviest funders of biomedical research—the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, and the Wellcome Trust—and three leading universities—University College London, Imperial College London, and King’s College London.
“The Crick,” as it’s known, is organized into four “laboratory neighborhoods” that encourage multidisciplinary interaction among its 1,500 scientists. Offices and labs have floor-to-ceiling glazing. The facility is designed around two atria that allow visibility throughout the building and between floors.
David King, RIBA, Technical Principal for HOK’s London office, provides insider details about what it took to get the Francis Crick Institute from launch to completion.
According to King, the six partners that funded the institute had “different protocols and procedures, often different funding methods, and organizational structures.”
To build consensus about key expectations and outcomes, HOK established 12 main user groups, which HOK encouraged to focus on how the building’s operations would work in the future, and how best practices from other research facilities around the world could be incorporated.
“The fundamental challenge was whether the building would become home to six institutions sharing common facilities, or one institution made up of several constituents. Happily, it is the latter,” says King.
HOK also had to deal with outside forces that could have tied the project in knots. “The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, the Mayor of London, and Camden Council had widely differing views on how the building should look,” recalls King. Camden Council initially opposed the proposed development altogether, preferring to use the site for social housing.
PLP Architecture was appointed to the project because of its previous work with Camden’s planning department. “We worked with PLP to focus on the building’s envelope and outward expression in order to shape the building into a civic landmark that Camden would approve,” said King.
The solution: One-third of the structure is below ground level, and its curved roof design is meant to create a more inviting perspective for the surrounding community.
Over the course of the project, HOK retained at least seven other sub-consultants for their expertise in such areas as acoustics (Cole Jarman), lighting (Porkorny Lichtarchitektur), biological resource facilities (Boswell Mitchell & Johnson), shielding (VitaTech), building maintenance and systems access (REEF Associates), cladding (EPPAG), and computer graphics imagery (Glowfrog).