National Graphene Institute

REVIEW | GM Building of the Year shortlist: National Graphene Institute

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

The first in a series running up to the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s Building of the Year awards in November, looking at the six buildings which, like them or loathe them, have made the cut and could be crowned the best in the city region in 2015.

The Chamber judging panel has certainly got its work cut out when it sits down to select 2015’s Building of the Year. Spanning a range of uses, with two cutting-edge research centres, a converted factory, a glass link building, a gallery extension and a revamped train station, choosing between them all is a bit like chalk and several cheeses. Judges are looking at the building’s contribution to Manchester, rather than from a design perspective.

First stop, the £61m National Graphene Institute in Booth Street East by the University of Manchester. Here we have the 81,000 sq ft home of arguably one of the most important scientific discoveries of the century, and one on which Manchester is hinging its international reputation. A quote on the wall in the entrance states that “a revolutionary material needs a revolutionary place to grow”.

When it comes to the NGI, this “revolutionary place” is not the building itself, but rather the mind-boggingly high-tech lab spaces housed within it. These are dedicated to graphene and 2D material research, bringing 120 scientific brains under one roof to work collaboratively on harnessing the potential of the “revolutionary material”.

As a shell goes, the NGI fulfils its purpose. The outer cladding makes a bold statement at street level, and internally the rough concrete finish and minimal fit-out screams functionality over aesthetics.

Why waste money on fripperies, when every pound spent could be used to support the development of a potentially life-changing material, in one of the largest and best-equipped laboratories in the world? It certainly puts the odd rough corner of the finish into perspective.

  • The NGI was designed by Jestico + Whiles, alongside CH2M Hill as technical architecture and M&E consultant. Bam was the main contractor, alongside civil and structural engineers from Ramboll. EC Harris was the project manager
  • The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce will announce the Building of the Year at its annual property and construction dinner on 12 November
  • The judging panel consists of Joss Underwood of the Chamber of Commerce, Steve Burne of AEW Architects, Phil Cusack of Capita, Jill Bancroft of Brown & Bancroft, Nancy McGuire of Addleshaw Goddard, Liz Everett of Seddon, David Williams of Turner & Townsend, Steve Williamson of F Parkinson, Graham Wilson of Park Wilson Consulting, Ian Powell of Pinington, John Marland of Bruntwood, Karen Hirst of Salford City Council, Stewart Grant of Grant Associates, John Atkins of Atkins Property and Peter McDermott of Salford City Council

Your Comments

This building should have put Manchester and it’s Graphene achievements on the map.It looks like a DWP office in Swindon.

By Elephant

It’s a great looking building, though the Nobel prize winning scientists credited with discovering Graphene weren’t happy that so much money was spent on the building.

By Prestatyn

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