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Stanton Williams completes major research centre at Great Ormond Street Hospital

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The 13,000m² Zayed Centre for Research into Rare Disease in Children provides facilities for 500 researchers and clinical staff

This public-facing research facility provides eight-storeys of academic research workspace, seminar and meeting spaces, specialist laboratories and outpatient clinics for children and young people.

The site is opposite Coram’s Fields – the former site of the Foundling Hospital, founded for children’s welfare over 250 years ago – and is set within London’s Knowledge Quarter. Joining many other scientific and research institutions in the area, the facility is a partnership between Great Ormond Street Hospital Foundation Trust, University College London and Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.

The building has a classicly sober Stanton Williams exterior, a composition of articulated light-hued terracotta-faced fins and panels, alternating with glazing, which gives it a warm but weighty civic presence. 

Inside it is organised around two vertical daylit atrium spaces – the larger serving a research zone, the smaller an outpatient zone. Both are entered across a single shared entrance bridge, which crosses above a 600m² double-height principal laboratory. This acts to reveal the work at the heart of the centre’s remit: research into innovative treatments and cures for children with rare and complex diseases. It maintains an openness to the street-face of the building while flooding the laboratories with natural light. But it also works effectively as a moat, ensuring a degree of privacy and removal for patients and their families visiting the centre as outpatients.

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Zayed Centre for Research, Great Ormond Street Hospital by Stanton Williams

Source: Hufton + Crow

The main spaces have a tough qualitative feeling of solidity to them, using non-clinical materials such as exposed concrete and European oak – refreshing after the usual wipe-clean, plasticised surfaces of so many clinical healthcare interiors. A sense of openness permeates the whole building, with generous waiting rooms for patients and breakout spaces and terraces for staff. Even in the most clinically sensitive areas like the specialist ‘clean’ operation suites on the sixth floor – which are protected by a pressurised air-lock from outside air-borne contamination – many of the individual treatment rooms have exterior windows. In all, this gives a non-claustrophobic sense to the whole, in what is a tightly-knit and programmed building.

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Zayed Centre for Research, Great Ormond Street Hospital by Stanton Williams

Source: Hufton + Crow

Spatially, the architecture has an orthogonal concrete calmness too  – although as with many Stanton Williams buildings, you feel it could let its hair down a little in places, break the orthogonals to accent the architecture or integrate more colour. As it is, some strong accents and colour are provided by an ambitious and well-integrated art programme – notably a large timber panel piece by Mark Titchner above the laboratories and a work by Random International in the main atrium, which consists of a large big red ball, shiny and pendulum-like that moves seemingly randomly around the space. These serve to underline the building’s exploratory, experiential feeling.

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Architect’s view

The opportunity to work with Great Ormond Street Hospital, UCL and GOSH Charity to make a building that was about science and medical care in the heart of the city on such a public and symbolic site opposite Coram’s Fields seemed very powerful. We felt very strongly that we wanted to give public visibility to science and allow people in the public realm to understand what the building was about and give a sense of the life-changing activities taking place inside.

Gavin Henderson, principal director, Stanton Williams 

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Client’s view

I am delighted to see this world-leading facility open its doors and welcome patients for the very first time. The opportunities that the Zayed Centre for Research offers for the integration of technology with cutting-edge medical research, and the collaboration we’ll see between research and clinical teams working side by side is incredibly exciting. As I walk around the new facility, it is clear the potential it holds to change the lives of children with the rarest and most complex diseases, and the hope it will offer to their families. 

Matthew Shaw, chief executive, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust (GOSH)

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Project data 

Start on site May 2016
Completion date October 2019
Gross internal floor area 13,000m²
Form of contract or procurement route Design and build
Construction cost per m2 £5,408
Architect Stanton Williams
Lead designer Stanton Williams
Client Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust (GOSH)
Structural engineer Pell Frischmann
M&E consultant Hoare Lea
Fire consultant Hoare Lea
Lighting and acoustics Hoare Lea
Sustainability and BREEAM Hoare Lea
Landscape consultant Bradley Hole-Schoenaich Landscape Architects
Facade consultant Eckersley O’Callaghan
Traffic consultant Pell Frischmann
Healthcare planning and ADB consultant MJ Medical
GMP validation consultant Exmoor Pharma
Accessibility consultant DP9
QS Gardiner & Theobald
Project manager Gardiner & Theobald
Main contractor Skanska

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