Grand Opening for Materials Science Building at West Cambridge

Released by University of Cambridge

A world-leading centre for the study of and research into materials science and metallurgy has just moved into a new £48 million home on the University of Cambridge West Cambridge site.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville, Chancellor of the University, officially opened the building at an event attended by the Vice-Chancellor, benefactors, and hundreds of supporters and staff.

The landmark building on the University’s growing science and technology campus has united the entire Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy under one roof for the first time.

Speaking at the Opening the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, said: “The University’s investment in this new building reflects the importance of the disciplines of materials science and metallurgy in our modern world, and Cambridge’s pre-eminent position in advancing them.

“Those who worked in the increasingly cramped conditions on the New Museums Site will welcome these 21st Century facilities, and the 19th Century founders of the laboratory in Sidney Sussex College – where materials science at Cambridge was born – would marvel at the discoveries now possible.”

Professor Lindsay Greer,who has just stepped down as head of department after seeing the building project through to fruition, said: “The Department is very grateful for the University’s commitment to this project. And we owe very special thanks to the external donors whose support was vital. Their generous donations, crucially augmenting the capital infrastructure funds allocated by the University of Cambridge, have made it possible for us to have bespoke facilities that will ensure that Cambridge continues to be one of the world’s leading centres for materials science for many years to come.”

Designed by the London studio of global architecture firm NBBJ, the building meets the challenge of accommodating the broad range of research fields the Department covers, from large scale processing of metals through to nanotechnology, materials chemistry and the development of medical materials.

The new facility contains a mix of laboratories, support facilities, offices and social space with a total gross floor area of 10,600 sm.

The design maximises opportunities for collaboration and informal interaction between scientists on a daily basis, and is adaptable for future technological developments and changing research needs.

NBBJ project lead, Rebecca Mortimore, said: “A key design driver was the low-vibration requirement for the electron microscopy suite. This has influenced all aspects of the building’s design from organisation and space zoning to structural frame, building fabric and plant location. It is one of the best-adapted places for electron microscopy in the world.”

NBBJ worked very closely with the department to associate the exterior of the building with the work that goes on inside. Recessed and projecting bricks create patterns across the façade that are analogous to the grain-like microstructure of the metals being researched within the building, reinforcing the building’s identity. The brickwork patterning animates the building, making the surfaces vary as the light changes and when viewed from different angles.