The Wellcome Genome Campus Conference Centre has undergone three years of development at a cost of £21.9 million and this month it throws open its doors to its new state-of-the-art facilities, available to host conferences, meetings and events in the biomedical sciences sector.
Designed by architects Abell Nepp and ARUP engineers, the new Conference Centre boasts 1600m² of exhibition and breakout spaces, a 300 seat auditorium and a bar/café, all housed within an historic walled garden overlooking a tranquil adjoining orchard.
It was a challenging task to blend stunning contemporary architecture with the existing Grade II* listed country house of Hinxton Hall, including incorporating the Kitchen Garden wall of the original house and moving a 45 tonne rare black Mulberry Tree, requiring two cranes and 18 hours to complete.
The resulting new purpose-built Conference Centre provides an energising space in an idyllic setting, surrounded by 125 acres of parkland on the banks of the River Cam. The main space is enclosed by a truncated, skewed, elliptical roof that used 360 bespoke glazed tiles, supported by 112 tonnes of steel. 240 of the bespoke roof tiles are “Kapilux” glazing which is incredibly high performance and provides natural light, whilst minimising solar gain – ensuring the space is light and airy, but also comfortable and usable.
The central auditorium is encased with the designs of four phylogenetic patterns – Tree of Life, Primate, Insect and Cell – designed by Alistair McAuley of the award winning Glasgow–based Timorous Beasties, whose design studio is noted for their surreal and provocative textiles and wallpapers.
As well as a state-of-the-art fit out in terms of audio-visual equipment, 283 curved perforated metal acoustic panels, with over 12 million perforations in them, have been fitted to the outside of the auditorium to provide excellent sound quality within the exhibition space.
The new Conference Centre, which opens this month, provides a one-stop-shop for events with on-site accommodation, a restaurant and conference facilities.
Its design was particularly important as it lies at the heart of the Wellcome Genome Campus, home to some of the world’s foremost institutes and organisations in genomics and computational biology. This includes the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and European Molecular Biology Laboratory-European Bioinformatics Institute. Around 2,000 people work on the Campus, including research scientists, graduate students, data and informatics specialists, and the administrative and other staff who support them.
Bruce Nepp from the architects Abell Nepp, who led the project said: “The Wellcome Genome Campus is committed to delivering life-changing science with the reach, scale and imagination to solve some of humanity’s greatest challenges. We wanted to provide a building that matched that aspiration and delivered a world-class facility for the thousands of scientists each year that will pass through the Campus.
“Blending the old and new and drawing inspiration from science, we hope we have provided an energising and inspirational space that will be at the heart of the biomedical science community for many year to come.”
The Wellcome Genome Conferences Centre is now open for business and Director of Courses, Conference and Public Engagement at the Campus, Dr Julian Rayner adds: “We are delighted with the design of the new Conference Centre. We wanted to create a space that would be fitting for the thousands of scientists who come to share their work at the Campus every year.
‘However, it is so much more than just a location for a conference or event. Whilst our new state-of-the-art facilities provide companies with everything they need for a first rate event, it is the inspiring science and events that take place on the wider campus that will add value to the experience for everyone that attends.”