Sainsbury Laboratory wins 2012 RIBA Stirling Prize

Stanton Williams has been awarded the 2012 RIBA Stirling Prize for Sainsbury Laboratory, an 11,000m2 plant science research centre in the University of Cambridge’s Botanic Garden.

The Stirling Prize is the UK’s most prestigious architecture award and is presented annually to the one building that makes the greatest contribution to the evolution of architecture in the past year.

Sainsbury Laboratory was selected over five other shortlisted projects including the London Olympic Stadium.


The building is situated within the private, ‘working’ part of the garden, and houses research laboratories and their associated support areas. It also contains the university’s herbarium, meeting rooms, an auditorium, social spaces, and upgraded ancillary areas for Botanic Garden staff, plus a new public café.

There are two storeys visible above ground and a further subterranean level, partly in order to ensure efficient environmental control, but also to reduce the height of the building.

Solidity is implied by the use of bands of limestone and exposed in-situ concrete, recalling geological strata and indeed the Darwinian idea of evolution over time as well as the permanence which one might expect of a major research centre.

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