Behnisch Architekten's Stuttgart office has won the two-stage architectural competition established by the ISREC Foundation (Swiss Institute for experimental cancer research) to create a new home for the AGORA - Cancer Centre in Lausanne, Switzerland. The AGORA - Cancer Centre exists specifically to bring together scientists and practitioners under one roof as part of a community of expertise. The opportunity for enhancing communication within the new building was a major focus of the competition. The project represents an outstanding architectural and programmatic challenge wherein integrating the building’s diverse requirements within an extremely heterogeneous and tight urban fabric places great demands on the design concept. The scheme of Behnisch Architekten was selected for its ability to address these concerns in a very holistic architectural yet functional way. Set for completion in 2016, the new Cancer Centre will accommodate 400 researchers and clinicians.
Bringing together fundamental research and clinical practice, the decision to link to an existing building on one side while creating a harmonious transition to nature on the other, informs the design scheme's structure without adversely affecting the site’s existing programmatic functions. Visual relationships both on the site and to the landscape beyond also require a carefully defined building mass. The resulting building responds sensitively to these site conditions while sculpturally standing out from its heterogeneous surroundings.
Many of the building’s shared amenities occupy a zone called the agora, a continuous interior landscape that acts as the connective element between the public areas and the research labs above.
Spatial qualities, directly perceived through daylight, proportion and materiality, should be equally visible in public areas and in the highly technical laboratories. Interdisciplinary and disciplinary communication are both central to successful research and are evident in the organization of the floor plans. Communication areas are located throughout the new building, both inside and outside. The agora, the public level of the Cancer Research Centre, connects the campus’s existing pathways to the laboratory and office levels via interconnected communication areas and informal workplaces.
The internal organization of the programmatic areas offers the users a high level of flexibility to provide the necessary freedom for future changes.
The building skin is designed to enhance daylight use in the depth of the building. In specific areas operable windows allow for natural ventilation. This provides for a better individual climate control. Daylight enhancement systems, optimized sunlight protection, the responsible management of natural resources in the construction and maintenance of the building, as well as the use of both renewable and existing energy systems on site are preconditions for a successful and sustainable working environment. They, together with ISREC’s own research goals, establish a future oriented image for the new facility.