Francis Crick Institute

HOK with PLP, London, 2016


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The curved roof 

Anthony Coleman     Download Original

  • The curved roof    
  • The institute is close to the British Library    
  • The triple-height roof hides the plant needed to run the laboratories    
  • The aluminium roof    
  • Terracotta fins    
  • The staircase in the atrium    
  • View of a laboratory    
  • Laboratories sit either side of the main atrium    
  • Dual-level main entrance     
  • View of the laboratories from the atrium    
  • Ground floor plan    
  • Second floor plan    
  • Roof massing adjustments plan    
  • Roof massing plan    
  • Preliminary sketch    
  • Roof louvre under construction    

A 91,000m² biomedical research laboratory in London that researches diseases such as cancer, heart conditions and neurodegenerative diseases.

The institute is organised into quadrants of labs united by full-length and full-width atriums – nave and transepts – with a crossing, at which point its main staircase rises. At their most expansive these atriums are 24m and 50m high. The building has six floors above ground, topped by a triple-height curved roof of aluminium slats, which hide the substantial plant needed – more than a third of the building is devoted to plant and services. The ground floor is reached by a dual-level main entrance on the building’s east side.

The design intent was to develop an overall architectural concept that promotes interdisciplinary work and encourages collaboration between scientists and researchers, while creating a brand new civic landmark of notable architectural expression in King’s Cross. The use of BIM was imperative to ensure the speed and accuracy of the interdisciplinary coordination necessary to achieve early release of structural packages. BIM was also important for automating design iterations, which inevitably had to be tested on a project of this scale and complexity, ensuring optimisation of end product.

Excavation and construction of one of London’s largest basements on a site constrained on all four sides by buried obstructions – including the Thameslink station box and two 120-year-old cast-iron gas mains serving Camden Town – called for a completely bespoke strategy. The result was a delicate balance between structural efficiency, cost, programme and site logistics, relying on complex 3D ground modelling and live on-site movement monitoring to ensure the ongoing integrity of all surrounding third-party assets.


  • Completed: 2016
  • Floor area: 91,000m2
  • Sectors: Healthcare, Education
  • Total cost: £460M
  • Procurement: Two stage Design and Build
  • Address: 1 Midland Rd, London, NW1 1AT, United Kingdom

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