In 2008, Cardiff University, a member of the Russell Group of Universities, embarked on the development of a masterplan, known as Maindy Road Campus.

IBI Nightingale (Cardiff, Wales) was appointed in 2010 to develop the first phase of the 8.9 acre development, which was formerly used as a railway site. The $53 million project, known as the Hadyn Ellis Building, involved several laboratory-based research groups to be housed in one building along with exhibition and conference facilities, a lecture theater, seminar suites, office accommodations, a café, and a NHS standard clinic for research purposes.

A key design strategy was to provide an open and accessible building that allowed the university to showcase its work. The design also needed to fit within the context of existing university buildings and nearby 1930s red-brick residential housing. Furthermore, the scheme needed to reflect the university’s aspirations for the development as a whole and achieve a BREEAM Excellent rating, a global environmental assessment method and rating system for buildings.

IBI Nightingale developed the building based on two linear blocks linked by a single full-height atrium space. This approach would zone the highly serviced spaces (laboratories) with the less serviced areas (exhibition and office accommodation) and maximize the amount of natural ventilation entering the facility. 

One of the challenges on the project was addressing the risk of incoming noise from the neighboring road. To reduce the noise and maintain the required acoustic comfort levels within, a louvered screen wraps the entire front building and incorporates acoustic absorbing material. In addition, the screen serves as a venetian blind to improve privacy between the facility and nearby houses.

On the outside, the block facing the housing is clad in colored glazing that tonally responds to the brick and develops a language that’s appropriate to the university. This is set against a backdrop of terracotta cladding, which complements the university’s existing architecture.

Inside, a controlled materials palette includes exposed concrete and ash timber. A cantilevered concrete stair contrasts with the vibrant exterior, while the two blocks are linked by a series of bridges, which serve as collaboration spaces for the researchers.

The building was completed in 2013 and was awarded “Best Higher Education Building in Wales” at the BREEAM awards 2012.