Molecular Foundry

Berkeley, CA

A dramatic cantilever funnels in views and still fills a lab's program requirements.

“Thinking,” “Exchanging,” and “Making” necessary links in creating ground-breaking science inspired SmithGroup’s design for the Molecular Foundry in Berkeley, California. The architects tried to combine these aspirations with the aesthetics of this facility to mirror the advanced nature of the research happening within.

Molecular Foundry
Photo © Timothy Hursley

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Molecular Foundry Team: Lise Barriere, Steve Spaid, Barbara Abecassis, Lily Lai, Roxanne Malek, Bill Diefenbach, David Moore, Hiroko Miyake, Irene Monis, Tom Worden and Suzanne Napier.

Designed for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), the Foundry is comprised of laboratories and offices for interdisciplinary research in the nanosciences. The laboratory draws from the clear functional nature of the surrounding research facilities, the natural features of the steep hillside, and the breath-taking views of the canyon as it descends into San Francisco Bay. With buildings flanking it to the north and south, the Foundry serves as a corridor, or “tunnel,” which telescopes the panoramic views to the working scientists nestled inside. The simple rectangle sits atop a plinth creating a dramatic cantilever, again to accentuate the vista of the outside world.  

While the new facility is organized to exploit the views and utilize natural daylight, it is rigorously structured to fulfill all necessary needs for a laboratory building.  It links offices and labs together to create opportunities for interaction. To the SmithGroup design team, these programmatic components are the essence of research in practice. Disciplines, separated by floors, embody inorganic nanostructures, organic polymer/biopolymer synthesis, biological nanostructures, nanofabrication, and theory. Furthermore, the facility includes a large Class 1,000/100 clean room suite for nanofabrication and an electron microscopy imaging suite.

The facility received LEED Gold Certification, using water and energy resources efficiently and enhancing indoor environmental quality for the health and productivity of its occupants.

While the Molecular Foundry’s dramatic cantilever serves practical purposes related to program and circulation, it also establishes a powerful architectural presence on the LBNL campus.  The structure connects nearby science buildings and creates a research center where scientists can collaborate to fulfill the promise of nanotechnology. 

Formal name of project: Molecular Foundry

Location: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California

Gross square footage: 95,690 sq.ft. (including utility Building)

Completion Date: March 2006

Total construction cost: $52 M (total project cost, including equipment: $85 M)

Owner: Department of Energy (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

301 Battery Street,
7th Floor, san Francisco,
California, 94111


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