New visitor centre and state-of-the-art facilities for one of the world's leading centres for neutron research, undertaken as an international collaboration with architects TKMT.
Minimalist design meets trailblazing technology at this brand new building to create a welcoming space to showcase the work of an important science hub. The Institut Laue-Langevin is a pan-European initiative providing neutrons to visiting researchers for experiments and analysis at the molecular level. Our work at the Institute includes a new visitor centre which will give access to the institute’s array of state-of-the-art equipment and provide scientists with a base for their work. Alongside this, we have also designed new multipurpose conference facilities, bookable lab space and healthcare support.
We won the original visitor centre design competition in collaboration with TKMT architectes who are based in Grenoble. This partnership reflects the international boundary-crossing efforts of the Institute itself, which is largely backed by the UK, France and Germany.
With scientists forming the client group, even small changes could have a large impact on how the occupants could use various spaces. We therefore rigorously explored every material and detail decision in close collaboration with them.
Conceived in two halves, the centre is split into public and private zones to balance accessibility with more secure functions. The new building has a delicate appearance, underpinned by a solid, muscular structure. Slender white perforated fins on the exterior modulate daylight and privacy and are arranged in a lenticular pattern inspired by the process of neutron diffraction. The fins alter the appearance of the façade, from morning to evening, during different weather conditions and when viewed from alternative angles. A singular skylight pushes its way through the roof of the building to provide natural light throughout the space.
The interiors are crisp, white and calm, featuring elements of timber joinery to offer moments of warmth and texture. A large helical exposed concrete stair rises from the ground to the upper level, which is set in a double-height space with a floor-to-ceiling window. The staircase becomes a sculptural object when viewed from the outside and reveals the life and activity within the building as people move through each level day and night.