Research Laboratories For Schlumberger

(Cambridge, England) 1984

Schlumberger Lab Cambridge

The Schlumberger oil company required a scientific facility for testing machinery for oil exploration, drilling and fluid mechanics, rock and wellbore physics, and related computer-based research. Accordingly, Hopkins' building contains scientists' offices, laboratories, a kitchen, computer stations, a sen/ice yard and a drilling test station, as well as administrative offices, a restaurant and a terrace.

The concept of the plan is indebted to a spatial schema developed by Serge Cher-mayeff in his work on the prototypical organization of buildings. Hopkins' building is a skilful application of this most functional model, first reflected in projects by the members of the Team X group at the end of the 1960s, then exemplified with ingenuity by Piano and Rogers' Pompidou Centre (pp. 84-89), and in part by the Medical Faculty of Aachen of Weber, Brandt & Partners (pp. 168-71). Following Chermayeff's model, the Schlumberger Laboratories are divided into parallel zones, the outer ones reserved for activities which are the most service orientated and private in nature, while the central spine is taken up by communal and general purpose functions. The space in between these two topological extremes of the spectrum is allocated to activities which are functionally intermediary. The merits of such a layout are evident in Hopkins' plan. The scientific researchers are offered the maximum of privacy, tranquillity and view, the laboratories the best accessibility. Researchers and personnel are provided with opportunities for contact in conveniently central areas. Without any major disruption in the organization of function and services, the building can be expanded at the two ends of the spine, reproducing the same principles of the basic plan.

Demountable, PVC-laced, ship-board panels make up the internal partitions and also form a storage wall system. 50 per cent of the corridor walls are glazed while doors are plate glass. The ceilings are covered in acoustic metal tiles. Sen/icing is carried out from the floor. This is also the case for the complex machinery for the drilling test station and underground high-pressure pump chamber, as well as the ventilation system which draws fresh air from the outside and serves all areas, including the

(Opposite, top to bottom) Cross sections through the winter garden and test station; longitudinal section; plan

(Top) Detail of the construction

(Above) Two views of the structure from a distance sealed, air-conditioned, internal laboratories. Most of the heating of the spine areas of the building comes from the surrounding zones of the laboratories, an additional benefit of the layout. Functionally, as Peter Rice has pointed out. the suspended roof system enhances the ambience of internal areas of the spine. The translucent teflon membrane hoisted above the flat roof of the building, or above the winter garden and restaurant, which have no intermediary roof, admits high-quality natural light.

As in the case of the buildings of Norman Foster and Richard Rogers, the structure is deliberately exposed to view from the outside. Three zones of construction coincide with the tripartite functional division of the plan. The two zones formed by the research wings are spanned by trusses from which a flat roof, covered with a single-layer polymeric membrane on a profiled steel deck, is hung.

But if this kind of suspended roof is strongly reminiscent of many of Mies van der Rohe's buildings, the main, central zone with the larger span, containing the winter garden, restaurant and test station, owes more to Buckminster Fuller's vision of roof structures suspended by cables from a mast. What is suspended in this case, however, is an altogether different kind of roof from, for instance, the metallic hood of Fuller's Dymaxion House. It is a tensile material, a translucent teflon-coated glass-fibre membrane. It rises in great contrast to the rigid geometry of the steel truss structure of the two outer zones. Although structural elements, again, remain on the outside of the building and the roof is suspended. the main medium here is not the truss and the flat roof but the cable and the tensile material. The latter is suspended through a system of cables from twinned masts forming a tent-like envelope. The masts in turn are stabilized through another system of cables and interconnecting three-dimensional trusses anchored to the ground.

There is a romantic aura to this tensile structure that is rare in buildings characterized by so-called 'high-tech' architecture, founded upon the faithful exhibition of all technological elements and the promotion, as a solution, of the most advanced technological means. Indeed, the main core of the present building recalls the tents which explorers used to set up in uncharted parts of the world in bygone days, an image which seems apt for an institution which, like the Research Laboratories for Schlumberger, is devoted to advanced research into natural science and technology.

James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates NEW STATE GALLERY

(Stuttgart, Germany) 1977-84

(Left) Conceptual diagrams showing circulation and volumetric relations

(Opposite) Exterior view and site plan

(Left) Conceptual diagrams showing circulation and volumetric relations

(Opposite) Exterior view and site plan

In September 1977 James Stirling and his partners were informed that they had won the competition to design an extension for the Stuttgart Staatsgalerie. The client was the local government of Baden-Wurttemburg. The project included, in addition to an art gallery, a theatre, a museum school and a library. The site, 90 metres by 140 metres of abandoned space, was separated by a dual carriageway from the Staatstheater south of the existing Staatsgalerie. The anonymity of this characterless area was not unlike what one often finds in most technologically developed cities in Europe and around the world. As a result of rapid and ruthless economic growth, built structures are often abandoned as soon as they appear unable to keep up with mounting demands for efficiency, without much consideration for social and cultural costs. In this case, the site contained in its fragmentary, existing structures a latent but strong urban potential. Stirling and his partners decided to make this potential manifest; they succeeded with great inventiveness and wit.

The Staatsgalerie extension is one of the best examples of a shift in attitudes in the mid-

1970s away from both the self-destructive excesses of the populist tendencies of around 1968 and the alienating, bureaucratic and technocratic mainstream of so-called modernist design. Here we have an architecture whose urban character was expected to restore a public face to the buildings and a civic consciousness to the users - or. as the American sociologist Richard Sennett has put it, to restore the 'fallen public man'.

Such considerations played an important role in Stirling's decision to move away from the post-war stereotypical attitudes about museums that were predominant among curators, designers and critics, who saw them as simply well-controlled environments whose fundamental task was to preserve and present information about art objects with a minimum of interference. As a consequence of such attitudes, the museum was still regarded as cut off from its surroundings, even when site conditions and factors of context were taken into consideration. By contrast, the leading consideration for Stirling's design of the Staatsgalerie extension was the building's urban identity.

A promenade, like the ones in a traditional city, was designed to bring pedestrian visitors through the building itself. The route cuts diagonally across the site, providing 'meaningful contact with the new building'. The public can descend into the sculpture yard -and gaze at the sculpture without actually visiting the gallery, an act of urban voyeurism-and down to the entrance terrace, then through the theatre arch to the Eugenstrasse corner. The entrance to the gallery and theatre also makes visible an uninterrupted pedestrian walkway network latent in the present site. This makes the gate to the building part of a system of public 'squares', thus serving as an interface between roads and built complex. This inventive urban-architectural device functions as a spatial rhetorical prologue to the museum's activities. It also suggests a kind of theatrical setting; the visitors become actors, the building a public stage. In addition, this walkway relates the basic layout of the extension, a U-shaped plan, to the H-shape of the original building.

Participation in cultural activities is perceived here as a public, 'urban' event, a

secular ritual for citizens - what Harold Rosenberg called the contemplative experience of the post war museum, rather than a private, intimate, confessional experience. This spirit of civic design led to the principles of frontality, seriality and hierarchy determining the spatial, formal composition of both the outside spaces and the internal areas of the new gallery. This gives the building an objective and ceremonial, rather than an individual, confessional character. The museum's programme, a straightforward. 'chronological journey through the History of painting and sculpture', dictated the topology of the exhibition rooms. The orthogonal-prismatic configuration of the rooms seems equally objective.

The restaurant, an important feature socially and commercially in most contemporary cultural facilities today, is placed apart from cultural events, but not. as in many museums, in a secluded, private internal yard, in the tradition of the piazza, it is attached to the terrace where performances and temporary shows take place.

Equally 'public' and objective' is the lighting of the exhibition areas inside the gallery -

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Greener Homes for You

Greener Homes for You

Get All The Support And Guidance You Need To Be A Success At Living Green. This Book Is One Of The Most Valuable Resources In The World When It Comes To Great Tips on Buying, Designing and Building an Eco-friendly Home.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment