Burwell Architects have secured Planning and Scheduled Monument consent for a £20m masterplan for the Marine Biological Association. Set within the environs of Citadel Hill, the plans for the MBA infrastructure improvement programme include a brand new world-class Marine Microbiome Centre which is set to be the first of it’s kind in the UK.
The Master Plan identifies the existing outdated labs within the courtyard area and an opportunity to develop the east end of the site to provide a set of state of the art laboratories that will allow the MBA to continue and expand their research in an era where their work is becoming increasingly relevant.
The MBA’s brief was to create a master plan that would allow the Association to continue and expand their operation at their current location and whilst enhancing their profile with a reinforced international identity reflecting the pioneering research undertaken within the field of Marine Biology. The master plans sets out to create a vision of the future for the MBA at the current location of The Laboratory, Citadel Hill ensuring it’s continued presence within the historic naval city of Plymouth.
The existing site falls within the Plymouth Hoe Conservation Area and is within the environs of the Plymouth Citadel, a Scheduled Monument that meets the site along the northern boundary. 1888 saw the creation of the original high quality South Building built from solid Plymouth limestone walls mimicking the Stazione Zoologica in Naples. However disjointed development over the years has led to poor quality extensions and a disjointed campus spread over many levels.
A carefully considered massing exercise was undertaken to establish the likely extents of any proposed built form ensuring that views were retained both to and from the Citadel walls thereby maintaining it’s formidable presence and it’s historic significance in defending the city of Plymouth from invasion. Early engagement with both Plymouth City Council and Historic England lead to positive early feedback and allowed Burwell Architects to submit a scheme that had the support of all parties.
In terms of accommodation and the MBA’s long term presence at the site, a series of new facilities are provided including a new three storey plus basement state of the art laboratory block to the east of the site and a new education centre and outreach public face set within the courtyard space in front of and over the seawater hall. This new podium deck provides a direct connection through the site with clear wayfinding both horizontally and vertically with full DDA access linking the different disciplines and encouraging a collaborative progressive environment.
A sensitive palette of materials seeks to compliment the existing fabric of the Citadel and the original South Building whilst not detracting from their significance. Plymouth lime stone is used to create a heavy weight plinth echoing the walls behind, on top of which a heavily trabeated light weight structure of Corten steel sits with deep reveals providing solar shading and views out towards the channel reinforcing the connection between the MBA and the ocean. Whilst the materials are sympathetic to the existing fabric they also define the aspirations of the MBA moving forwards and provide a robust solution in the aggressive marine environment.
Professor Willie Wilson, Director of The Marine Biological Association said:
"We are excited to receive planning permission for a design that is highly practical, yet sympathetic to its surroundings and importantly, has high sustainability principles. The project will make an enormous difference to improving research facilities at the MBA. The masterplan is part of a wider strategy we have termed, “Pathway to 150 Years of the MBA” which takes inspiration from the Marine Biological Association’s eminent scientific roots and spirit of discovery."
Charles Leadlay, Director at Burwell Architects said:
“We are thrilled to have obtained these consents on behalf of the MBA following close liaison with Plymouth Council and Historic England, ensuring the associations ongoing presence at the historic site in a facility that reflects their status at the cutting edge of marine biology at a time where the understanding of our ocean and the life within it is more crucial than ever before”
Phase 1 of the master plan, The North Labs, will commence over the summer and is due to complete in early 2022.
About The Marine Biological Association:
The Marine Biological Association (MBA) is one of the world's longest running societies dedicated to promoting research into our ocean and the life it supports. Since 1884 they have provided a unified, clear, independant voice on behalf of the marine biological community and currently have a growing membership in over 40 countries. The MBA run a leadng marine biological research labratory where many eminent scientists - including 7 Nobel prize winners - have carried out their research.
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