The Sainsbury Laboratory, a major new plant science research centre in Cambridge by architects Stanton Williams, has won the coveted RIBA Stirling Prize 2012 for the best building of the year.
This is the first time that Stanton Williams has won or been shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize. With the Sainsbury Laboratory they have achieved world-class architecture for world-class science. Set within the University of Cambridge Botanic Gardens the low-rise, collonaded stone and glass building is carefully designed to complement its Grade II listed garden setting. The architects have created an exceptionally stimulating work environment, reinterpreting the tradition of the monastic cloister and collegiate court to create spaces for reflection, debate and collaboration amongst scientists.
An architectural promenade forms the heart of this building of super-human proportions, celebrating the activities of botanical research through interaction, communication and a connection with nature. From the front to the back, the building progresses from a grand, fortified façade to an open balcony and public café set within a Botanic Garden.
Sustainability through flexibility in long-term use is achieved through an adaptable façade behind the limestone colonnade, enabling the research spaces to grow and change as required by the scientists.