Original features

April 30, 2009

Designed to meet the unique requirements of teams studying the behaviour of plants and social insects, the University of Sheffield's new Arthur Willis Building presented a number of unusual challenges.

The £4.4 million building, named after the late emeritus professor of botany, was recently handed over by Bond Bryan Architects.

Location was the first crucial issue in its design. The single-storey building and the large adjacent greenhouse, which forms part of the university's department of animal and plant sciences, are hidden away in a woodland area in central Sheffield, where a scheme is working to re-establish native species.

This also means they are built on difficult terrain - an old dam filled in with rubble from Second World War bomb sites, with an artesian well beneath it.

The research programme poses more constraints. Some rooms have to be kept at a constant temperature to accommodate ants from the Tropics and, while most buildings try to keep animals out, the bee flight room incorporates holes in the wall so that scientists can observe the insects making their journeys to and from the nearby hives.

Please send any suggestions for this architectural series to: matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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