Crick exterior 02
© Laing O'Rourke
Crick exterior
© Wellcome Images
Crick exterior 03
© Paul Grundy
Crick interior 03
© Paul Grundy
Crick staircase
© Paul Grundy
© Wellcome Images

The Francis Crick Institute

In a high-profile location that mirrors its ambitions, ‘The Crick’ can boast the recently-restored St Pancras Hotel and British Library amongst its neighbours. Striking and complex in its form alone, the restricted urban site beneath this new research centre demanded an innovative approach to construction.

Part of a plan to consolidate the reputation of British medical research on the world stage, the 82,578 m² institution will provide facilities for 1,500 scientists in a large-scale collaboration between six of the industry’s major players. Designed to VC-A criteria throughout in addition to localised enhancements, the structure will have the flexibility to house increasingly sensitive equipment as technology changes.

A continuous basement runs beneath the entire site, 17 m at its deepest. Impressive in itself, physical and temporal limitations added to its complexity: large pad footings, the remains of former steelworks; a Thameslink box to the east with service ducts along our boundary; tube tunnels to the south; 120 year old cast iron sewers to the west and north. We implemented ongoing 24 hour geotechnical monitoring to satisfy the various authorities, and worked our design around the physical constraints. We implemented a top-down strategy to improve the programme, clearing 8 m before driving piles a further 9 m down and inserting steels which acted as temporary props and later became permanent encased columns. Diaphragm retaining walls provided extra stiffness.

The superstructure is split into four independent concrete-framed blocks, connected centrally by a steel atrium; deflection was mitigated through provision of movement joints between the different materials.

The intricate design prompted us to develop bespoke software as well as a structural model which could be loaded onto a central BIM system which was identified as an exemplar of best practice within the UK. The whole team operated full BIM models, led by HOK International who started 3D modelling at around Stage C, with the remaining consultants beginning to exchange information after Stage D.

A multidisciplinary research facility in steel and concrete with 17 m deep basement

London, UK
UKCMRI Construction Ltd
HOK International, PLP Architecture
£ 600 million
82,578 m²
  • 2017 ANC Awards – Vibration category
  • 2017 London Planning Awards – Best New Place to Work
  • 2017 R&D Magazine’s Laboratory of the Year
  • 2016 London First Investment in London's Future Awards
  • 2011 Bentley Be Inspired Award – Innovation in Generative Design