In a laboratory, every surface, component or element has a purpose and specified performance criteria that can be met in a variety of ways, but must be achieved for the laboratory to function as a research environment. Laboratories share this characteristic with professional kitchens and surgical suites. These are tools that are devoted to successfully performing specific tasks expediently and with care. However, unlike surgical suites or professional kitchens, the tasks to be performed in a research laboratory are constantly changing and evolving. The scientific method depends on a constant challenge to the status quo. Research protocols change, new equipment is brought in to support existing research, and research groups expand or contract in size based on funding and the progress of the research.
The research environment must not only be a finely-honed tool, it must be flexible, able to adapt quickly and with minimum effort to changing needs. The flexible, integrated research environment must coherently communicate its own possibilities and stimulate their implementation. In 1998, Rafael Viñoly Architects designed our first laboratory: the Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Subsequently, we have designed and built 15 laboratories, and have developed insights into how research environments function and how these functions can best be served. We have taken these insights and formalized them into the principles that characterize the planning and design of research buildings. We challenged accepted norms on interstitial space, day lighting, and the design of the laboratory furniture.
This presentation will focus on these principles and describe those that characterize the planning and design of research buildings that support complex, interdisciplinary, collaborative and changing research activities. The session will describe a methodology to quantify the research, office and collaborative space requirements for a flexible, integrated research environment as well as a system that will lead directly from the space requirements to the construction and operation of flexible, integrated research environments.