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Laser centre ELI Beamlines - interview

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The interview with Viktorie Soucek and Holm Bethge

Can you briefly introduce your studio and its practice in London and Prague?

BFLS is an award-winning, design-led architectural practice with offices in London and Prague. The Prague branch was opened after we won the international competition for Nakladove nadrazi Sever. Cooperation between London and Prague is easy as we come from the same school of the studio of Norman Foster, where each of us worked for more than 5 years. The practice has 90 staff with impressive collective expertise across a broad range of sectors and building typology, including large-scale commercial projects and high-end residential schemes, as well as cultural, hotel and leisure, education, infrastructure, logistics, business parks and major masterplanning projects both in the UK, Czech republic and other countries.

Working in a dynamic studio environment, our work process flows from a synthesis of analysis, creativity and rigorous commercial understanding. We are dedicated to the creation of fresh and progressive architecture. The design process is generated by context and the building brief. All projects are collaborative and as such there is not overriding BFLS style, only a philosophy of how one approaches the Design process.

You have won a competition organised by the IoP. Who were the other architects?

Yes, we won an architectural competition back in 2009. The competition was arranged in two stages and we were competing against 6 other architectural studios. The main criteria was the quality of our response to location of the complex, the architectural design and the way in which we accommodated special requirements (materials, technological and operational).

The clients' brief for this project must have had many binding criteria that you had to follow. How has this limited your creative opportunities, the actual architecture of the building?

Of course, the client's brief is a very substantial document primarily explaining the function of the Laser Hall and Laboratory Building. For us one the major driving elements was to clarify the links between base build and technology elements. As such we actually helped define the brief by commenting on and questioning the document and by actively engaging with the client. The brief also defines overall space and volume requirements which call for a quite large building. The internal organisational and functional design was achieved in close collaboration with the client and our specialist subconsultants and corresponds to the constraint of the technical and vibration requirements. A clear case of function dictating form. From our experience and initial conversations with the client, we wanted to design a building which promotes the creative working environment and enhances communication. Furthermore, the connection to the surrounding nature was very important. We therefore focused on maximising natural daylight to the offices and laboratories as well as to the public spaces. The material selection also played a fundamental role in the appearance and finish of the building.

The complex will cover a large area. What will be its links to the surroundings and how will its presence change the local urban context, will it affect the running of the small village?

The building is in close proximity to the town hall and the newly developed town centre.

We followed the principles of arranging the public building elements such as the cafeteria and conference facilities towards the north, creating a public face. The main entrance was also postioned there which is defined by an oversailing canopy. A public footpath runs along the northern extent of the site connecting the historic castle and town hall square with the residential developments further to the west. Along this footpath we designed two gardens, one between the Hilase project and ELI which is mainly for the scientists' use whilst a garden to the west of the office building will be for everybody's use and pleasure. A public foot path runs north-south along the western extent of the car park linking the southern plots with the town centre. The rich landscaping at the south eastern extent of the site will be kept as much as possible extending and reinforcing the landscape setting right to the edge of the buildings.

prepared by Julius Machacek

source: magazine ARCHITEKT­­

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