Knowledge Networks: London and the Ox-Cam Arc
The new headquarters for the Royal College of Pathologists in Alie Street features a stimulating sequence of ceremonial and conference spaces capable of accommodating over 400 people, flexible work space for the College’s 80 permanent staff, as well as a sublet floor for expansion. Terraces overlook the City, and residential accommodation for the College’s use completes the building at roof level.
The design is based around a defining objective — sustaining the ethos of a highly regarded medical science institution in a wholly new setting that enables it to fully express its heritage credentials whilst at the same time demonstrating its enduring relevance and commitment to scientific advance. Site selection and the key decisions about structural and environmental systems, right through to choices about controls and finishes have all been aligned with this objective.
The College relocated from a Grade I listed, Nash Terrace on the Crown Estate to the City’s edgy eastern fringe, a diverse, regenerative and people-centred environment.
Despite the radical contrast, the new building replicates the spirit of the original in spatial sequence, proportions and the choice of key materials. This is Bennetts Associates’ third major project for the College in 30 years. We understand its mission to support the science and practice of Pathology, and to help demystify it. This time working in collaboration with CBRE, the project represents a step change for the College, securing its long-term future for the next 100 years.
Replacing a poor quality 1980s building, the design made clever use of the site, delivering clear span, open floorplates, a side core and contrasting north and south facades. Generous voids carved from the volume provide spaces for the public to engage with the College, and for it to come together as one.
The new building is a BREEAM Excellent, sustainable, long-term investment: highly flexible, low carbon, good quality, it uses well-considered materials. Retaining the existing raft foundation, it features coffered soffits to minimise concrete volumes whilst maximising the surface area of the thermal mass, all built beautifully to allow many secondary components to be omitted. This yielded more than 50% saving in embodied carbon and reduces operational energy thanks to the benefits of the inherent thermal mass. It is a creative workplace with good daylight and views, fashioned with a rich visual palette of enduring and timeless materials and textures, beautifully crafted into a stimulating composition of processional spaces. Feature stairs and kitchenettes are positioned strategically to encourage interaction and physical activity. It reflects the grandeur of the College’s previous accommodation but in a modern setting, providing space for work, meetings, members, conferences and events.
The College contributes to society through its support of medical excellence and its advocacy for its unique branch of science. It has embraced a new community and is working with local schools on a programme of events and activities. The project encourages a sense of community and exemplifies inclusive design, exceeding the requirements of Part M.
‘We began the project of the construction of 6 Alie Street back in January 2017 and with the support of project managers CBRE and architects Bennett Associates we felt as a client that we were very well supported. The design team worked against a tough brief that was fully met. As an end client not in the property or construction industry, they walked us through every stage of the design process so as to ensure that the building was fit for purpose, accessible, sustainable and future proofed for the College’s growth and for everyone to enjoy for many years to come.’
Daniel Ross, Chief Executive & Michelle Casey, Head of Facilities & Events, The Royal College of Pathologists