GM Building of the Year: Manchester Cancer Research Centre

In the latest instalment of our series reviewing buildings shortlisted for Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s annual award, we look at the University of Manchester’s third contender in the list, the Manchester Cancer Research Centre.

Half of the projects on the Chamber’s list of the best buildings in Manchester in 2015 were backed by the University, showing the extent to which the institution has invested in the area and also the diversity of its interests. Between the £61m National Graphene Institute, the Stirling Prize-almost-winning Whitworth Art Gallery and the £18.5m cancer research centre at the Christie Hospital, UoM certainly has its fingers in a lot of well-designed pies.

In terms of its impact on the region, a key criteria for the Chamber judges, the Manchester Cancer Research Centre is hard to beat. Situated directly opposite the Christie Hospital in Withington, the location and design of the 63,000 sq ft building enables world-class scientists to collaborate with ease, ensuring no valuable time is wasted which could be better spent discovering new treatments or potential cures.

While aesthetically cool and clinical, the purpose of the building makes it emotive. Its goal is improving outcomes for cancer patients, all within a ‘super-centre’. The lab spaces are largely occupied by research groups funded by national charities, surrounded by a range of amenities to support the brilliant scientists as they burn the midnight oil.

The centre also hosts clinical trials, so needs to present a welcoming front for Christie patients and their families. While far from being described as cosy, the centre is dominated by light, airy spaces, friendly staff, and a reassuring sense of efficiency.

According to Prof Caroline Dive, an internationally renowned expert in pharmacology working out of the institute, there is nowhere better in the world for her to conduct her research.

“This building is really at the coalface of cancer”, she said. “You cannot underestimate the importance of the ease of access for the researchers, the conversations in the café, the one minute walk from the office.”

Which is surely more important than a prize, winner or not.

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