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Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University (SLCU)

The prestigious 2012 Stirling Prize went to Sainsbury Laboratory, an £82m plant research centre at the University of Cambridge.

The stunning, two-storey laboratory sits on the edge of the University of Cambridge's botanic gardens. Funded by Lord Sainsbury, the site provides state-of-the-art facilities for 120 botanists researching plant development.

Judges applauded the "calm beauty" of the laboratory, designed by Stanton Williams. The overall aesthetic, layout and choice of materials really do bring about a sense of peace. Stanton Williams specified a StoSilent Panel acoustic system to achieve two key requirements:


Although beautiful, the smooth, reflective choice of materials throughout the project creates significant acoustic reverberation. This is entirely counterproductive to a calm and healthy working environment, and would have undermined the entire project. An acoustic solution was necessary to reduce reverberation times and restore a sense of tranquillity.


The acoustic solution had to be in-keeping with the monolithic yet calm, airy aesthetic. It also had to maintain the high material quality standards demonstrated across the entire project.

The layout has been orchestrated to instigate scientists naturally bumping into one another during the day and discussing their progress. It is hoped that this will spark collaborative efforts and the odd "EUREKA!" moment. The specification of Sto helped here too, as speech legibility is clear and sharp, despite the reflective surfaces.

In an interview with the BBC, Stirling Prize judge Joanna van Heyningen described it as an "extraordinarily good building. [The researchers] deserve the best possible space in which to work, and that's what they've been given... It's a completely sublime building with the most extraordinary, beautifully designed natural light."

Winner of the £20,000 prize, Stanton Williams was the only practice to have three projects entered this year.

Project Page

Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University

See the project page for Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University.