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Will Alsop’s nerve cell ‘pod’ gets go-ahead

Neuron pod vr capture from bridge
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Tower Hamlets Council has approved plans for a 10m-high education pod resembling a giant neuron, designed by Will Alsop’s practice aLL Design

The freestanding £1.8 million building will provide a further science education space for the existing Centre of the Cell, an embryo-shaped orange learning pod  in Whitechapel, east London.

Part of Queen Mary University of London, the 23m-long ‘neuron pod’ was inspired by the shape of a nerve cell and will connect via a bridge to the Blizard Building, the biomedical research laboratory where the Centre of Cell is housed. 

Neuron pod 4

Both the Centre of Cell and the Blizard Building were also designed by Alsop – the latter won a RIBA regional award and a Civic Trust award in 2006. 

Centre of the Cell’s director Fran Balkwill said the multifunctional neuron pod would be used for live science shows, experiments, films, workshops and exhibitions. It will also be used for evening classes for adults, school visits and to develop programmes for young people with learning difficulties. 

The new neuron pod is being built to address visitor demand and increase numbers. More than 135,000 people have visited the Centre of Cell since it opened in 2009. 

Alsop said: ‘I feel proud to have the opportunity to contribute to this amazing institution. Their work in encouraging young people is extraordinary. The new pod will help give young people an even more positive experience.’

Work on the neuron pod is expected to start in March 2017, with a completion date scheduled for December that year.

Neuron pod sketch by night

Project data

Location Queen Mary University, Whitechapel campus
Type of project Education
Client Queen Mary University
Architect aLL Design
Planning consultant CBRE
Structural engineer AKT2
M&E consultant Watermans
Quantity surveyor Turner & Townsend
Lighting consultant Sutton Vane Associates
Start on site date October 2017
Completion date December 2017
Contract duration 9 months
Gross internal floor area 86m²
Total cost £1.8 million estimated

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