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McGill University Life Sciences Complex

contributed by 159 archdaily, 25 June 2009

 

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Description McGill University Life Sciences Complex:

The primary function of the McGill University Life Sciences Complex is research in cancer and biomedicine. This includes five key components: chemical biology, complex traits, developmental biology, cell information systems and cancer research. The Complex integrates the new facilities, the Francesco Bellini Life Sciences Building and the Cancer Research Building, as well as the existing McIntyre Medical Sciences and Stewart Biological Sciences buildings.

Neither of the existing buildings have the same floor-to-floor heights, and have different base elevations. Other site conditions were an existing underground parking structure; solid granite below grade; an adjacent park setting and historic buildings; the need to maintain a through service lane (and a requirement to consolidate loading and materials management, including hazardous waste handling for the entire campus); and the restrictive view planes from Mount Royal.

There is wide spread acknowledgment in campuses and research institutions world-wide of the need to facilitate the convergence of disciplines. Old professional and disciplinary boundaries have, of necessity, dissolved. There is also acknowledgment of the value of chance and or informal contact between university wide faculty, research personnel and students, and of the high value of the quality of work place in a world competing for the best faculty, researchers and students.

Finally, there is the perennial need to provide the form of flexibility in laboratories that means that neither the building nor the trunk infrastructure need to be altered to reconfigure changing research regimes.

Utilizing an integrated design process, where the client took a more active role than usual; the architect became a team leader rather than the sole form-giver; and the structural, mechanical and electrical engineers took on active roles at an early design stage. Employing this “whole building” design process included the active participation of the design team, users, faculty and administrators from the University.

Through the knowledge obtained from a series of integrated team meetings, the design took shape. By merging the existing buildings with the new structures in a seamless manner, the complex creates spaces to eliminate the physical separation of researchers and to encourage different disciplines to work more closely together to develop new medical treatments. The new facilities are home to 60 principal investigators and 600 researchers, joined by over 2,000 researchers, technical personnel, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the renovated Stewart and McIntyre buildings.

The solution to all these conditions and problems was to make the connections between new and old buildings places to meet; by placing the vivarium in the mountainside, this programmatic component of the building remains effectively concealed; by bridging over the service lane, traffic flow remains uninterrupted.

Providing abundant natural light in the laboratories was the foundation of creating a satisfying work environment; by locating meeting places at strategic locations of pedestrian crossroads (both vertical and horizontal) the probability of chance meetings is enhanced; by maintaining a low profile the scale of the building on Pine Street is consistent with that of the historic buildings. The design of the complex also ensures that the park setting was not infringed upon.

Two volumes interlock on the site, each with its own research program identity. Subtle variations of expression are used to distinguish one from the other based on exposure, interior program or composition. To emphasize the discrete nature of each material, special attention was paid to the junction between them. The transition from glass to zinc is flush and the curtain wall glazing is either capless or creates solar shading through the use of razor sharp horizontal mullion extensions. In juxtaposition to the light volumetric expression, the base is clad in ironspot, black brick, echoing the Canadian Shield granite within which it rests.

The Life Sciences Complex is now a physically linked and programmatically integrated cluster of disciplines that comprise the health sciences precinct. The strategically placed informal and formal meeting places have become the locus of interdisciplinary interactions.

Photographs: Tom Arban

 

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Information McGill University Life Sciences Complex:

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Montreal, Canada




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