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INSTITUT DES SCIENCES MOLÉCULAIRES D’ORSAY, ORSAY, FRANCE


21


© Sebastian van Damme


© Fernando Guerra FG+SG


laboratories and offices. “The laboratory spaces are lofty, they were designed as high, open spaces,” he explains, while the offices are “relatively standard spaces.” The height of the laboratory spaces means where there are five office floors, there are three lab levels. It also meant there was leftover space on the roof to hide the air handling equipment and so on behind the glass facade. “The north facade is very much a factory look,” explains Kaan.


The facade running around the remaining three sides consists of a glazed concrete grid, with floor-to-ceiling glass set 80 cm back. “You could say that you take the concrete grid of the east, west and south facades and as you go north you slice it, and then you have one big glass facade,” Kaan says. “Behind that you find all these labs and equipment, it’s a very technical section. That’s how it was brought together in one volume.”


Designing for the laboratories themselves actually proved something of a challenge due to lack of information on who would be using the spaces, and what for. “Because of the merging units of the faculty, they could only start thinking about who was going to use which laboratory after the winner was chosen, and the design was


ADF APRIL 2019


more or less final,” Kaan explains. “It was designed, in the preliminary stages, as a relatively flexible set up that could be filled in during design development.” Designing them as open, lofty spaces worked well as it allowed plenty of room to add more detail including technical equipment. “It was a very interesting dilemma,” says Kaan. “You have to design a building which is relatively specific, for a specific use – you have to anticipate that in your design, but during design development you still need to do a lot of adaptation.” Although the building is predominantly


used for research purposes, Kaan says around 20 per cent of the building is used for teaching. For this reason a small auditorium/lecture theatre is “suspended like a box” over the atrium. However, as Kaan explains, “It’s not a building for students, if it was, we would have made larger floor areas where students could hang out, etc. This is much more scientific – in that sense it’s drier, it’s more tough, it’s not as ‘pleasant’ as it would be for education.”


Materials


The main material used throughout the building is concrete – the building’s concrete


© Fernando Guerra FG+SG


“Doing a building with a smaller footprint allowed us to keep as much of the green space as possible”


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