The London Centre for Nanotechnology, a joint enterprise in Gower Street for University College London (UCL) and Imperial College, designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Architects, will complete in the spring. Providing a mix of laboratory and office facilities, the centre will take advantage of the tools that the microelectronics revolution has made available to all sciences. 'We've done some interesting work on the front elevation, ' says architect Tim Hall.
'We wanted the building to reflect the science within it. We decided early on to give the building a doubleskin environmental facade, and then realised we could exploit the material characteristics of the facade to create a 'moiré pattern'. The moiré pattern was one of the tools first used by scientists to measure particles at the atomic scale, so it seemed a perfect device to reflect the inner life of a building dedicated to nanotechnology.' An outer perforated stainless steel solar-shading layer, which presents on to the street, and an inner layer of polished rainscreen panels have created the 'double facade'. A pattern of dots printed on the inner layer creates an interference pattern - an 'optical trick' that visually merges inner and outer layers and creates a moiré pattern as you walk by. Passers-by will perceive that the face shimmers, giving a kind of visual distortion.