Fathom Architects

Previous project:

Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Harwell, Oxfordshire

  • LocationHarwell, Oxfordshire
  • UseScience Research Facility
  • ClientScience & Technology Facilities Council
  • DateDecember 2021 - ongoing

Placemaking focused development plan for a world class science research facility and nationally significant asset for the UK knowledge economy.

Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) is the UK’s largest scientific research site, employing more than 2,000 people at the heart of the growing Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire. A nationally significant asset for the UK knowledge economy, RAL pioneers research in particle physics, scientific computing, laser development and space exploration.

In 2021, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) – part of UK Research and Innovation – were seeking guidance for future estates development and infrastructure over the coming decades to underpin their current and future work, and support business cases for funding to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of global scientific research.

Fathom Architects and David Lock Associates (DLA) were commissioned to prepare a collaborative Development Plan for RAL to create a comprehensive long-term vision aimed at improving the quality of place and preparing the site for a more sustainable future.

The plan was developed following intensive information gathering including workshops with various STFC departments and local stakeholders, and research of precedents from across Europe to establish key themes and benchmarks.

Alongside collaborative masterplan and sequencing work, Fathom led on locating future development sites, creating individual plot passports and establishing detailed design guides – including orientation, service zones and creating identity for front and back of house areas – based on our specialist knowledge in scientific research and knowledge campuses.

Completed in spring 2022, the Development Plan successfully combines the technical requirements of a complex operational site with placemaking, biodiversity, urban design guidance and architecture to create an improved environment for the thousands of researchers who work there every day.

The framework establishes robust foundations for the sustainable expansion and intensification of RAL, enabling cutting-edge science and research to continue on site for the long-term.

Following our work at Harwell, Fathom and David Lock Associates were commissioned by STFC to prepare a Development Plan for a second world-leading scientific research centre – the Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire’s Sci-Tech Daresbury campus.

Paul Cross, Head of Capital Development at STFC:
“STFC has had a very positive experience working with Fathom on Development Plans for our two largest science campuses – Daresbury and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

Their detailed assessment of the science & research sites has given us a thorough understanding of opportunities for refurbishing and extending a variety of existing buildings across our estate – including a highly specialist science facility.

The resulting design guide has been useful and practical, and given us greater clarity in planning for the future.”

  • ClientScience & Technology Facilities Council
  • MasterplannerDavid Lock Associates