Designing for high-tech science, innovation and research starts in a decisively low-tech manner – by face-to-face communication.

By working together in the same location, in places where knowledge can be shared within an expansive SciTech ecosystem, valuable relationships can be forged. Spaces which nourish connectivity are crucial for ground-breaking scientific discovery and technological breakthroughs.

Here, BDP’s SciTech experts share their ideas for creating the best knowledge cauldrons, helping to stir the creative pot for true innovation

As architects continue to seek ways to address the climate emergency and as our science and technology clients expand their civic presence, creating more innovative cities, there is a significant challenge to deliver the best, most productive and collaborative SciTech buildings. Their typology responds to site-specific conditions, and can either be vertical or horizontal. Both present unique opportunities for excellent research environments considering factors such as cost, sustainability, and structural suitability.

Manchester Metropolitan University, The Science and Engineering Building; refurbished and new build housing research and learning

Vertical designs optimise land use, conserving valuable urban real estate. Their reduced building footprint is well-suited for densely populated cities where available ground space is limited providing access to amenities and other collocated partners and industries. Research space can be vertically stacked, allowing for efficient access to shared facilities and fostering close interaction between different research teams through careful design and curation of areas for social encounter and collaboration. The environmental benefits of vertical buildings can also be considerable. They have a smaller ecological footprint as they consume less land and are often housed in a more efficient building envelope. A high-rise city centre research building can be attractive to clients seeking an iconic landmark and architectural symbol to enhance their prestige and recognition.

AstraZeneca’s Global HQ benefits from a horizontal typology, adopting a campus-style layout consistent with the wider Biomedical Campus in Cambridge. Image Copyright: Hufton & Crow

Horizontal SciTech buildings favour an expansive, campus-style layout that links research facilities across an urban or landscaped site. This approach offers space for specialised labs, equipment, and collaboration zones, fostering a sense of openness and interconnectedness. Horizontal layouts are particularly advantageous when access to services and extensive outdoor areas is required for research, or when facilities anticipate future expansion. They often provide researchers with direct access to green spaces, enhancing the overall work environment and promoting wellbeing. Moreover, horizontal buildings can easily be extended to accommodate unique research needs.

ONE Biohub in Aberdeen favours a lean, horizontal series of flexible spaces to unite life sciences research in the region. Image Copyright: David Barbour

The choice between vertical and horizontal SciTech building designs ultimately depends on the specific research goals, available space, and the desired architectural impact. Whether they reach for the sky or spread across the ground, these SciTech buildings are the crucibles of innovation, where groundbreaking discoveries and technological advancements come to life, shaping the future of science and technology. And whichever approach you favour, we can guide you through the process, by listening, enquiring, and creating options for the very best places for science and discovery

Author: Christoph Ackermann, Principal at BDP

For further information please contact Head of Sci-tech Sector, BDP