The pursuit of science — at every scale, from subatomic particles to galaxies — continually changes the way we view our universe. But for all of the incredible discoveries that come out of labs and other science spaces, the buildings themselves are, more often than not, underwhelming, more suburban office park than science fiction. Financial Times’ architecture critic Edwin Heathcote explores why this might be:
“One reason,” says theoretical physicist Ben Allanach, “is that the machinery is so expensive. They’ve spent the money on the kit – and then it’s very difficult to justify extra costs.” Rolf-Dieter Heuer, the director-general of Cern, agrees. “It needs to be seen that the money is going into research. Most importantly, the architecture has to be functional.” But, he adds, “that doesn’t mean it has to be ugly”.
Heathcote also points out examples of great science architecture over the years, both built and forthcoming, including Erich Mendelsohn’s Einstein Tower (1922); Wilson Hall at Fermilab, designed by DUSAF (a joint venture of architects DMJM and Max O. Urbahn; engineers Seelye, Stevenson, Value & Knecht; and contractor George A. Fuller Co.); and the soon-to-be completed Graphene Institute, by Jestico + Whiles.