herzog & de meuron completes AstraZeneca UK R&D center as floating glass disc


herzog & de meuron completes the astrazeneca ‘discovery center’

located in the middle of the cambridge biomedical campus (CBC) in Cambridge, UK, AstraZeneca‘s’discovery center (DISC)‘ through herzog & de meuron takes shape as a triangular hover disk made of a glass. the project, which now serves as new global research and development (R&D) facility, was first announced in 2013, after the swiss architecture firm was selected to develop it (see previous cover of designboom here, here and here). accessible from three different sides, the porous building loosely follows the shape of the site and is defined by a sawtooth roof stretching from east to west to provide optimal natural light inside. the hovering glass disc with sawtooth roof, which extends to the facade to create a tighter and taller zigzag vertical geometry, gives the project its characteristic appearance.all pictures © hufton + raven


herzog & de meuron put the four floors DISK on six rectangular glass boxes, grouped in three pairs, which together form a open courtyard. the courtyard marks the central point of the site, a meeting point, openly accessible from three different sides. in combination with the low-rise building structure, it presents itself as a reference to the historic colleges of central cambridge.

the Basel architects have placed the main programmatic element of the new AstraZeneca building, Laboratories, in the six rectangular glass boxes, which cross vertically all the floors. the glazed perimeters of the above-ground blocks favor maximum transparency through the ground and through the building, making science visible to employees and visitors. amenities such as the conference center, auditorium, cafe and restaurant are focused on the ground floor, with direct access from the main entrance to make them also accessible for the entire building. in the meantime, the workspaces are developed through a open plan, which offers employees a range of alternative workplaces, from private study spaces and quiet cubicles to informal employee collaboration spaces. Along the inner ring, the main circulation space around the courtyard on the upper floors, there are additional complementary areas providing a range of diverse spaces for upstairs exchange, informal meetings and catering .herzog & de meuron completes AstraZeneca UK R&D center as floating glass disc

the disks material palette is minimized in order to ensure a clear distinction between the different programs. the floor materials reflect the functional organization of the building: Natural stone for starters, solid oak, rough sawn for the main stairs and the inner ring area, and carpet for offices and editorial floors. the floor in the laboratories is continuous white resin to end. the main partitions inside the building are full height glass walls, allowing transparency and seamless transitions between the various domains. the other material of choice is exposed concrete, revealing construction method and structural function while complementing glass and wood.

“The functional diversity and the low height of the AstraZeneca discovery center allow each floor to be specific and different from each other”, note herzog & de meuron in the project description. “The underground level will contain support facilities, a loading area and a factory area; the street level is open and porous with both equipment and science on display in the laboratories; the first stage of the hovering disc is connected by the annular zone and the second stage of the disc is illuminated from above through the skylight of the jagged roof. despite the separate working environments on the floors, the building emerges as a characteristic structure serving as a hub for the entire CBC campus. ‘

herzog & de meuron completes AstraZeneca UK R&D center as floating glass disc
the building has a sawtooth roof

herzog & de meuron completes AstraZeneca UK R&D center as floating glass disc
the sawtooth roof extends to the facade to create a vertical zigzag geometry


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