John McAslan: Lancaster University Health Innovation Campus

Lancaster University, UK, commissioned John McAslan + Partners to design its new Health Innovation Campus, a project seen as a innovation center in the health sector. The masterplan created by the London studio is spread over an area of ​​eleven hectares, for which the firm has already designed and built the Innovation Hub building. Recently, the ground floor of this building has also seen ordinary citizens pass by to receive their Covid-19 vaccine, in line with the Campus’ mission to be a center of excellence for health care in the field of prevention.
This is not the first collaboration between Lancaster University and John McAslan + Partner, originally founded in London and later expanded to include offices in Edinburgh, Belfast and Sydney, Australia. The company had already designed the Postgraduate Statistical Center, as well as the Charles Carter Building and Engineering Building on the university campus. The new Hub is located north of the university’s main core, in a hilly rural area dotted with woods.
Lancaster University’s request was to design a place where rigorous research could be combined with shared learning – a concept the designers call cross fertilization – able to stimulate dialogue, combining different approaches to health, innovation and education. In the program and in the layouts designed by John McAslan + Partners, standardized pieces that promote more formal and traditional working methods have been interspersed with larger and more open social spaces, furnished and finished with inviting wood surfaces and warm colors that help stimulate the informal. collaboration.
As the designers point out, the relationship with the surrounding landscape, reconciled by the extensive use of repeated glazing and integrated solar protection systems, is an indispensable condition in most of today’s working environments which place serenity, relaxation and mental well-being at the center.
John McAslan + Partners’ new Hub project is a low-rise building – the highest point is a 5-story building “tower” – with two long and rectangular bodies which extend one to the south, immersed in the woods, and the other to the north, towards the parking lot. While the tower houses shared and welcoming spaces such as the auditorium and cafe, both “Branches” house offices, laboratories and teaching spaces, punctuated by meeting and event rooms which, spread over all floors, aim to stimulate discussion and promote a shared work culture. The large central volume offers double and triple height spaces, multiple informal meeting places, all fully furnished, and a large wooden staircase overlooking the surrounding landscape, which can also be used as a stand for meetings. The spaces have been designed to appear even wider thanks to the outdoor terrace with its wooden floor which extends into the green space with an irregular design and acts as a filter between the interiors and the outdoor park, promoting reflection, but also the direct use of the latter.
In direct response to the surrounding context, with its large green spaces and open countryside, the architectural form of the low pavilion reduces the impact of the building’s volume, which spans an area of ​​over 8,000 square meters over five floors. In cross section, these floors are characterized by a tiered order that attempts to fit into the topography of the place.

Viewed from above, the architecture presents a in L design with a main courtyard and spaces of different sizes that bring the surrounding greenery closer to the interiors. The courtyard was designed around a large hundred-year-old oak tree which offers its shade to the tables and seats on the outdoor terrace, creating a moment of leisure in the heart of nature. A portico welcomes those arriving from the car park and leads to the terrace and the main entrance, while encouraging contemplation of the surrounding green spaces.
The concrete structure of all the different bodies has glazed facades articulated by pillars and partially covered with perforated panels in anodized aluminum, following an irregular rhythm which interrupts the geometric rigor. These bronze colored panels were cut using numerically controlled machines, based on an abstract design inspired by naturalistic motifs. The same decor partially envelops the hall block, transferring its role and function to the visitor.
The architects’ design incorporated various energy efficiency measures, including Lancaster University’s policy requiring that teaching spaces and offices not be mechanically ventilated. In this building, the efficiency objective was achieved thanks to the low heat infiltration rates. The predominant construction materials – namely the steel structure and the internal wooden surfaces – can be reused and recycled, choices that have enabled the Innovation Cluster to obtain the BREEAM Excellent durability rating.

Mara Corradi

Architects: John McAslan + Partners
Architecture: John McAslan, Paul East (project architect)
Team: Jo Brown, Elliot Hill, Chris Ravenscroft, Tom Roberts, Georgina Ward
Landscape and town planning: John McAslan + Partners (Andy Harris, Celia Guerreiro)
Client: Lancaster University
Location: Lancaster
Appointment: 2016
Completion: 2020
Area: 8000 m2
Structural engineers: WYG
Service Engineers: WYG
Site infrastructure: WYG
Contractor: BAM Construction Ltd
Project manager: Identity Consult
Planning consultant: CBRE
Cost consultant: SDA Consulting
Photograph: © Hufton + Corbeau

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