The Photonics Centre is based on the urban design and services engineering concepts developed for an initial competition, won in 1995.The two buildings are colorful volumes with soft contours which create a strong identity within the existing rectilinear context without challenging the gentle coherence of the site. The three-storey building contains laboratories, workshops, and offices, while the adjacent single-story hall offers space for large-scale experiments.
The laboratory building is a case study for the integration of architecture, construction, and services. The undulating building contours enclose flexible units of varying depth, facilitating the deep-plan dark units needed for research with light. The paired columns of the double facade lend the external skin depth and rhythm and contain weather-protected external louvers for solar-screening. The facade, with a spectrum of 36 hues on both the columns and the solar blinds, offers natural ventilation and acts as a buffer zone for improved thermal and sound insulation.
A central top-lit atrium was integrated into the design of the main building as a space for communication and exchange between the scientists. The building has an economical prefabricated concrete structure, including floor slabs of the corrugated section which allow every point within the flexible plan to be serviced from both above and below. Vertical services run in risers located along the central corridor while horizontal services are distributed in prefabricated U-sections that span up to ten meters, either between beams or supported by the paired columns of the facade. The adjacent single-storey hall is a steel frame construction with a full-height glass facade and internal polychromatic colour-coated sunshades.