Building of the Month (July)

This month our artist in residence Bill Hunt shares his interpretation of The Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London.

Location: Whitechapel, London

Architect: AMEC/Alsop Architects

Completed: 2005

Size: 9,000m2

Cost: £45m


2006 RIBA Award

2006 Civic Trust Award

2009 The Chicago Athenaeum, International Architecture Award



In 1999 Queen Mary University of London instigated a search for architects to design their new ‘School of Medicine and Dentistry. The University organised a design competition and selected a shortlist of six teams for presentation and interview, finally selecting AMEC/Alsop Architects at the beginning of 2000.

The overall brief was to create a new building in Whitechapel for 400 research staff and students which would stimulate the exchange of information between medical research disciplines.

The design’s key driver of was the creation of a large single floor laboratory, 5.5m below ground level.  Above the lab floor in a glazed pavilion accommodation was provided for cellular offices, open plan write up space, seminar rooms and meeting spaces (The Pods). A further unique element was also included, the ‘Centre of the Cell’ Pod – a facility providing a programme of science education for children and young people

A linear six floor Plant Wall would house all the plant for the labs and at its base was a 400 seat lecture theatre.


  • The research scientists were initially sceptical about being below ground, but the promise was made that the space would be filled with light. A promise that was kept.
  • Will Alsop commented that the pavilion would be his “box of delights”, colourful and animated – not your traditional laboratory.
  • English Heritage’s comments from the planning committee report, “…the design severely damages the character of the conservation area…..therefore its enhancement through a well designed modern building should be welcomed….the proposed building is a striking and uncompromising design”.
  • Often called the “Enfant Terrible” of the architectural world, Will Alsop was a larger than life character, who challenged the norm and bent the rules of conformity.