The National Automotive Innovation Centre serves two purposes. It is first and foremost a place for researchers, engineers and designers to come together across disciplines to devise new technologies and products. It is also a showcase for advances in British design and engineering.
The building therefore has two distinct but overlapping parts: an inner sanctum and a shop window.
Each specific activity has the functional space that it needs – and those different activities are gathered around a space where collaboration can take place. Flexible research spaces over four storeys surround an equally flexible atrium space where people come together for demonstrations, meetings, breakout sessions or simply to socialise. Spaces are individually beautiful yet work collectively to encourage interaction.
Front of house accommodates the main reception and exhibition area with clear views into the Engineering Hall and café.
It is a clean and simple building. Its richness and quality come from its strong base, middle and top. The articulation of the façade strikes a balance between campus scale and human scale.
The building steps in and out to create a clear entrance and at roof level to form terraces. The roof is dramatic and gives a strong, consistent top line to the elevations. The edge projects above a continuous ribbon of windows, so the roof appears to float over the building: a metaphor of the NAIC as a unique coming together of academic disciplines and manufacturing companies under one roof.
An in-situ concrete frame allows a simple aesthetic, is robust, makes the building easily adaptable, and is an environmentally sound choice.
The materials – anodised aluminium, glass, glazed brickwork and engineered timber – are enduring and self-coloured. All project excellence in engineering.
Internally, the building is clean and white with glazed panels where appropriate. Splashes of colour and contrasting materials are introduced sparingly to highlight particular areas.