Hopkins Architects / Pears Building, Royal Free Hospital, London

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The new facility, housing one of only five immunology centres in the world, will co-locate both research and clinical facilities on-site


Words by Emily Martin

Images by Janie Airey


PROJECT INFO

Interior designer
www.hopkins.co.uk
www.shh.co.uk
Client

Royal Free Charity, University College London (UCL) and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
Completion

July 2021


ARCHITECTURE PRACTICE Hopkins Architects has delivered the Pears Building: a new state-of-the- art joint venture between the Royal Free Charity, University College London, and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, co-locating research and treatment facilities in a distinctive new building sited at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

The pioneering building houses several ground-breaking facilities, with the practice working closely with the different stakeholders to ensure the building was not only fit for purpose, but united in design and function whilst meeting its clients’ diverging needs. Scientific research has been shown to benefit enormously from regular formal and informal interaction between disciplines and research groups. Here, opportunities for spontaneous interaction are built into the design.

The cafe and social spaces have become a magnet for hospital workers and those using the facilities.
The cafe and social spaces have become a magnet for hospital workers and those using the facilities.

Day-to-day use of the facility includes multidisciplinary research and the rapid translation of findings into first-in-human clinical trials. It provides the ‘bench-to-bedside’ environment and resources to move quickly between the different research stages: basic science, preclinical and clinical stages, and first-in-human treatment. The Pears Building houses one of the five specialist immunology centres in the world, which will also provide outstanding research training to educate future scientists and clinical academics.

Emphasising the enormity of the project, Ernest Fasanya, director at Hopkins Architects, says: ‘The Institute of Immunity and Transplantation is the only such global research facility outside the USA and one of only five in the world. We soon began to understand the radicality of its vision: co-location with both the hospital and patient hotel enables scientists to be near to patients being treated and allows faster transition of medical breakthroughs into real world application.’

A central atrium builds a strong visual connection between research clusters.
A central atrium builds a strong visual connection between research clusters.

The design scheme features a strong visual connection between research clusters. Write-up spaces are arranged around a central atrium which incorporates generous circulation, break out spaces and booths to support professional collaboration as well as socialising. Lab spaces are co-located to provided bench space which can flex according to research group size.

‘Within a state-of-the-art facility, care has been taken to provide healthy working environments and conditions for staff with maximum daylight and sunlight, visual connectivity between departments and social hubs,’ says Fasanya.

By adopting a ‘fabric first’ approach, sustainability strategies have been prioritised.
By adopting a ‘fabric first’ approach, sustainability strategies have been prioritised.

A large, flexible foyer space at ground floor is designed to be used for a variety of events whether academic, social or for charity and institute fundraising. The main stair and a large seminar space are also located here, consolidating the atrium as the active heart of the building. A new main entrance and cafe will be shared by the public, visitors and staff, giving an open and accessible identity not only to the institute but to the wider hospital.

The building provides new offices for the Royal Free Charity and its volunteers, and a new 35-bed patient hotel for outpatients or visiting academics requiring an overnight stay.

Visitors can watch the research occurring in the ground floor laboraties
Visitors can watch the research occurring in the ground floor laboraties

‘The brief for the new facility also provided a welcome opportunity to reconfigure the relationship between buildings on site,’ says Fasanya. ‘It provides a new frontage to Hampstead Green and site-wide improvement to access and connectivity, rationalised circulation and significantly enhanced public realm.’

The Pears Building has been designed as a stand-alone facility but with easy access to the existing hospital building. The brief provided a welcome opportunity to reconfigure the relationship between buildings on-site, including the building’s brutalist counterpart, with a new frontage to Hampstead Green, site-wide improvement to access and connectivity, rationalised circulation, and a significantly enhanced landscaping and public realm.

The building has been carefully considered in terms of its siting and to avoid a ‘monolithic structure’, according to Hopkins. Instead, we find a variety of human-scaled building elements and functions, to create new relationships at ground level.

At entrance level, a colonnade has been created with set-back cladding to form a sheltered space at the top of the landscaped terraces. Above this, two storeys of laboratory and write-up space are expressed externally with alternating full-height glazing and panels in brickwork designed to complement an adjacent church. At the upper and lower levels, fritted glass combined with aluminium louvres helps reduce glare whilst maintaining high levels of natural light. The upper patient hotel levels are set back behind planters for additional privacy. Overall, materials were chosen to consider context, durability, thermal performance, sustainability, ease of maintenance and cost.

‘The building has been designed to mediate between the hospital and the passerby,’ says Fasanya. ‘Together with the colonnade, which encourages people to watch research occurring in the ground floor laboratories, the external landscape creates a liminal zone which embeds the scheme within its context. Finally, brickwork, carefully selected to match the existing Grade 1 church nearby, further blends this large building on a tight site neatly into its context.’

Given the energy demands of science-focused buildings, the team considered sustainability as an integral part of the design from the outset, achieving a BREEAM Excellent rating. A holistic approach considered all aspects of sustainability to include not just carbon, but operations, occupation, flexibility and life-cycle, and well-being.

Early workshops held with the project team prioritised sustainability strategies that aligned with the project’s values. Adopting a fabric first approach, the building frame and skin performance has been maximised. An exposed concrete frame, with minimum 50 per cent GGBS cement replacement, was optimised in design to enable lab expansion where required, minimise vibration in specialist areas, provide thermal mass cooling and allow easy services access. A brown roof was carefully selected to provide future habitats for local wildlife and insect populations.

The Pears Building provides quality space and equipment for up to 200 researchers working in the translational field. Great care has been taken to provide a distinctive and high-quality building, with healthy working environments and world class facilities to attract and retain the brightest and the best.

Fasanya concludes: ‘Almost a year into occupation, the Pears Building is thriving: in addition to the researchers who are now working there, the social spaces and cafe of the building have become a magnet for hospital workers and passers-by who visit and use it regularly, bonding and strengthening both the internal and external community.’


KEY SUPPLIERS

Carpet

Interface

www.interface.com
Vinyl Flooring

Tarkett

www.tarkett.co.uk
Paint

Dulux

www.duluxtradepaintexpert.co.uk



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