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Foster's quake-proof Stanford research project goes on site

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Foster and Partners' second us project is now on site. The Center for Clinical Research Sciences for the School of Medicine at Stanford University near San Francisco is a 11,640m2, US$55m building which combines laboratory research facilities, offices and, in the basement, the medical school's human anatomy department. It is also the practice's second laboratory building, the first being at Imperial College, London.

Foster and Partners won the commission in November 1996 following a limited international competition. University architect David Neuman says that he invited Foster's to bid despite never having seen any of its work in person because: 'I'd been impressed with the work that I'd read about.'

The brief called for state-of-the-art laboratories and offices in an environment that encouraged social interaction. 'The dean of medicine, Dr Eugene Bauer, wanted a building that addressed the notion of collaboration in research because a lot of discovery om the cross-fertilisation of ideas,' said Neuman. 'We felt Foster's interpreted that better than any of the other proposals.'

The scheme consists of two parallel, four-storey wings sandwiching a linear courtyard. Each wing has three floors containing laboratories, laboratory support and office space. The offices are placed along the courtyard elevation, while the laboratories face outwards. Between the offices and laboratories is the support space.

Neuman expects this arrangement to provide flexible research space. 'I think that this building offers opportunities for change in use that we do not have in any of our other lab buildings on campus.' The fourth floor will contain solely offices and the anatomy school will be housed in the basement.

Despite the need for heavy servicing in the laboratory areas, the architect made the building as energy-efficient as possible, using operable windows on offices and separate air-handling systems for the offices and laboratories. The layout means that both labs and offices get natural light. The concrete frame, designed by Ove Arup to resist extreme seismic forces from the San Andreas Fault 6km away, adds thermal mass, and the 87m-long, curtainwall- clad north and south elevations will have large solar shades. The east and west ends will be clad in precast concrete.

The courtyard, which forms the building's social hub, will be shaded by tubular aluminium louvres. The entry to the anatomy department will be via a well at its centre and two sets of bridges will span between the wings at each level.

The building acts as a pivotal point in the university's masterplan, drawn up by landscape architect Peter Walker, sitting at the junction of several pedestrian routes through the medical school. Nigel Dancey, Foster's project director, says: 'We've never worked within such a organised masterplan before.'

Neuman is impressed by the ease of maintenance of the building. 'I have never worked with an architect who approached how we were going to maintain the building in as much detail at the schematic design stage as Foster's has.'

The project is under construction and due for completion in autumn 1999.

Foster's is also working on the project with Record Fong & Chan Architects, and the structural and services engineer is Ove Arup & Partners California.

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