LocationSt Catharines, ON, Canada
From the architect. This is a new 174,000 square foot Biosciences research facility at Brock University, also known as the Cairns Family Health and Bioscience Complex (CFHBC). The new building will provide state-of-the art research space for advancement in areas such as Cancer research, infectious diseases, biotechnology and green chemistry. The facility will also house much needed health science teaching space, expansion space for Child and Youth Studies, as well as a business incubator to foster collaboration between researchers and entrepreneurs. The lower level of the building will contain a Vivarium, an NMR suite, Photophysical Labs, and a mechanical utilities plant for serving this building, as well as future campus buildings. The top floor of the building houses a Bio-containment Level 3 Lab, as well as a greenhouse. In addition to this highly anticipated new program space for Brock, a satellite facility for McMaster University’s Medical School will be located on the ground floor of the new building. Such varied and unique programs, coupled with a large expanse of repetitive research lab space led to the massing concept of a rigorous “Lab Bar” floating over a series of sculptural programmatic “Objects.”
Glass was once a rare and limiting material, used very sparingly in older buildings. Now, with technological advancements in the manufacturing and performance of glass, a building’s entire enclosure can be constructed with glass – and large expanses of glass are often used for interior partitions.
For the Brock University Cairns Family Health and Biosciences Research Complex (CFHBRC), a series of glass “layers” allow daylight to penetrate deep into the building. There are also surface treatments on the glass, as well as an exterior screen wall that controls the light entering the building. The various types of glass and screens provide transparency, illumination, light filtration and privacy.
On the upper two laboratory floors, the continuous wall of transparent glass has a screen-printed pattern applied to it which filters the light and reduces solar heat gain. While a high degree of transparency exists with this technique, the plane of glass clearly defines a boundary and a screen between the interior and exterior of the building.
On the south façade, the uninterrupted glass wall has a solar screen 3 feet in front of it, which is an aluminum hexagonal frame supporting a closely spaced series of aluminum rods. The hexagon motif is meant to be symbolic of molecular structure. This screen serves as a “veil” to filter sunlight and control glare, but also exists as a much larger architectural expression of surface. From within the building, the views out through the “screen” are maintained, yet there is a perceived reduction in glare. When viewing the building’s exterior from the south, this screen wall appears to have various degrees of transparency which changes depending on the angle of light and viewing distance. There are moments in time when the wall seems to be almost solid, with a reflective metallic sheen that is reminiscent of a brushed stainless steel. At other times, the screen wall seems as though it is a very light veil, elegantly filtering the light.
With the two upper floors of laboratory space and faculty offices, the goal was to bring natural light deep into the labs, and to illuminate the main corridor with as much natural daylight as possible. The northern wall of this long corridor is a continuous, floor-to-ceiling acid etched glass wall, which actually presents itself as more of a luminous surface. The borrowed daylight from the offices along the north façade becomes a diffuse glow once it reaches the corridor. By contrast, the southern wall of the corridor is more solid, with entrances into the labs marked by a series of recesses and display boards set within bamboo clad entry portals. The sliding display boards also act to conceal the many electrical panels that line the corridor.
The write-up desks for the researchers are located in an open office zone along the southern edge of the lab floors. This space is separated from the main laboratory by a fully glazed wall with a series of bamboo clad entry portals, echoing the design of the main corridor lab entrances. Southern light is filtered by the exterior screen wall and allowed to pass through the write-up space and deep into the research labs.