Knowledge Networks: London and the Ox-Cam Arc
University College London’s redevelopment of the Eastman Dental Hospital site will become home to a new centre for neurology offering a world-class research and hospital environment. The centre will provide a ‘bench-to-bed-and back- again’ approach to tackling debilitating neurodegenerative diseases.
Hawkins\Brown devised a masterplan for the site which encompasses three plots, each with a building designed around principles of collaboration, adaptability and reconfigurability. New publicly accessible spaces and routes through the site will be created, enhancing the building’s contribution to the historic character of Bloomsbury and contributing to the expansion of London’s Knowledge Quarter in equal measure. The scheme was granted planning consent in 2019, with the first plot due for completion in 2023.
Collaborative partnerships are at the heart of UCL’s mission to tackling neurological diseases. Plot 1 comprises of a comprehensive redevelopment of the former Royal Free Hospital to deliver a world-leading medical research facility for UCL’s Queen Square Institute of Neurology, the UK Dementia Research Institute (UKDRI) and UCLH’s National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN) Outpatient Clinic.
The site’s central location within Bloomsbury enables the centre to build on its close relationship with the long-established medical faculties on Queen’s Square, including the NHNN, whilst fostering new partnerships within the UK’s wider knowledge cluster. As the UKDRI’s hub, this facility will work closely with the UKDRI’s six other centres across the UK while forging new links within London’s Knowledge Quarter and MedCity’s London, Oxford and Cambridge networks.
The facility aspires to be the most comprehensive and coordinated neuroscience research centre in the world by providing a working environment that promotes collaboration and interdisciplinary translational research. This empowers the project’s partners to work together under one roof and find quicker and better ways to diagnose and treat devastating neurological diseases. The building’s design facilitates knowledge-sharing through use of open plan laboratories, write-up spaces, technologies and common laboratory processes, shared across all research groups. It is also designed with longevity in mind, meeting the needs of the current researchers and clinicians while maintaining the ability to reconfigure the arrangement of research spaces to fulfill future requirements. Conceptually, the building is designed as a ‘home away from home’, providing pockets of domestic-scale spaces for visitors and their carers to recuperate and re-energise in. The building encourages wellbeing of patients and staff through providing dementia-friendly public spaces, connections to nature, visual links to the restorative courtyard and nearby parks and gardens.
The newly masterplanned site will become an accessible, well-connected and welcoming public destination. New pedestrian paths and cycle routes will increase activity and permeability through the site and beyond, creating new key links between Gray’s Inn Road and King’s Cross Road. These routes will enhance the character of the public realm for both the building users and members of the public by connecting a variety of bright, open spaces that are richly planted to. This redevelopment seeks to foster new interactions between UCL, UCLH, the local community and the wider knowledge quarter and their partners.
‘UCL’s current neuroscience research is very impressive. In fact, it is currently ranked second in the world. Before I joined the fledgling UCL Dementia Research Institute in 2017 I spent 15 years at Harvard, the top ranked university for neuroscience. They have large purpose-built research buildings designed for communities of collaborating scientists who move back and forth between basic science, translational science and patient care centres. The proposed new building on Gray’s Inn Road provides UCL with the opportunity to do the same. If we get this right — we will be positioned to make really significant progress to defeating dementia.’
Dr. Adrian J. Ivinson, Chief Operating Officer, UK DRI