collaborated on the project with local associated architecture practice FRES architectes, a firm founded by two ex-KAAN employees, Laurent Gravier and Sara Martin.

Although KAAN Architecten has a track record of high quality laboratory buildings and educational facilities, the combination proposed here was something new for the firm. “It’s something that we had done before, but in a different mixture,” says Kees Kaan, founder of KAAN Architecten.

Design considerations

The fact the building would be bringing together researchers from across three universities played an important part in the brief, and the thinking behind KAAN Architecten’s design. “It wasn’t only that the ISMO needed a new building, it was also used to catalyse the merger between the different faculties,” explains Kaan. “Everything would be new – the building, the colleagues, and the collaboration.” Keeping this merger in mind was noted as

© Fernando Guerra FG+SG INSIDE OUT

On the east, south and west elevations the corridors are arranged around the outside of the building

an “important element” by one of the client bodies, University Paris-Sud, says Kaan. The architects visited the existing facilities and got to know the scientists that would be working in the building, in order to get a better understanding of their habits and the type of environment they required. “They tend to be very introverted, so they hide away in dark laboratories and little offices,” he says. “We tried to organise the building in such a way that of course they’ll still be able to do their work – they have these facilities where they can focus – but on the other hand we wanted to make something where they would be encouraged to walk through the building, meet other colleagues, and engage.” It’s for this reason that the practice designed what Kaan calls a “very compact” building. “We stacked, we made a lot of floors,” he says. As well as wanting to encourage communication and interaction among the building’s users, the compactness meant the building had as little impact on the surrounding landscape as possible. “It’s a beautiful site amongst trees, and doing a building with a smaller footprint allowed us to keep as much of the green space as possible intact.” The nature of the work taking place in the laboratories means they often need to be relatively dark, so the practice designed the building with a large number of these spaces located in the basement. Where the work allowed them to be daylit, rooms have been stacked one above the other, on the


northern side of the building. “On this side you don’t have very much sunlight on the facade, so it allowed us to open it up, make it transparent, without the laboratories becoming too hot or too exposed to sunlight,” explains Kaan.

When it came to organising the remaining

rooms, the architects wanted to do something a bit different. “We sort of turned the building inside out,” says Kaan. On the east, south and west elevations, the corridors are arranged around the outside of the building, with the offices in the middle, organised around two courtyard areas. This brings more light into the building but also creates interaction with the campus outside in the form of visual connection with the circulation areas, while the offices are more private. “When you go from the laboratory to your work room, you’re walking a little bit through the campus,” he explains. “You have a view of the beautiful green spaces, and you’re not walking down an internal corridor with neon lights and dark spaces.” He stresses that it was “very important” to make these circulation spaces “of a very high quality.”

Arranging the building in this way also means the offices benefit from more privacy from the outside world, while still receiving plenty of natural light from the central courtyards. “It allows people to withdraw there,” Kaan says. “They still have daylight, but have their own workspace. It’s private.” Aside from the labs and offices, Kaan says the third most important element to them as designers was the meeting spaces. It’s for this reason they designed a full-height, open atrium to greet users. “The atrium is one space from which all the corridors spill out,” he explains. It’s also home to a two-storey library, located to the right of the entrance and connected by an enclosed spiral staircase, plus a cafeteria, various balconies designed for meetings that project into the open space, and a staircase that leads down to the labs and parking garage. “It’s really the core, the heart of the building,” says Kaan. “It was a very important element because it’s from this you understand the sections of the building, the scale, you connect all the different floors and the building merges into one ‘house’ for the people that work there.”

Scientific requirements KAAN Architecten describe the building as being “divided into two architecturally expressed realms, intertwined into a single entity”. The reason for this, says Kaan, is due to the differing requirements of the


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