UNStudio’s design proposal for the Almazov National Medical Research Centre is focused, first and foremost on creating, curating and cultivating a community. As such, every design featured across the campus was chosen and tailored with this communal future in mind, for researchers, students and staff, as well as for the surrounding residents.
Key to any community is knowledge sharing. In order to both promote formal and informal knowledge sharing and identity, inspiration was taken from traditional architectural features found in St. Petersburg: that of the courtyard and the winter garden. These courtyards, voids and gardens in the design not only allow natural daylight and nature into the building, they also allow for easy wayfinding and act as informal knowledge sharing nodes between students, academic staff and practitioners. As such, educational clusters are organised around a series of three main faculty courtyards and one central Winter Garden (that also hosts the campus library). Within the building, the changing daylight that plays across these punctuations defines the flow of the space, increasing the quality of light and – together with proximity to nature both inside and outside the building – defines an inner ecosystem that creates a natural backdrop for high-end learning.
In order to invite and integrate the local community into the programme, the main educational section of the building is raised above the ground level, thus creating a semi-public space within the building that is open to local residents and park visitors. This transparent and permeable ground floor creates a new gateway to the Udel’nyy Park, where local residents can traverse through the space, no longer seeing the building as a barrier to the nearby nature, but as a clear connection to it.
On the top floor, over the research programmes, a rooftop landscape becomes the natural location for the student accommodation. Separated from the rest of the programmes, this living space within the building allows for the creation of a student village overlooking nature. This lively community of young people, combined with a winter ice-skating rink, assists in the development of a cohesive community and ensures that the building remains lively throughout the year.