Sainsbury Laboratory, Botanic Institute, Cambridge | Blog

Posted by Seb Egan - 12 January, 2021


The Cambridge University Botanic Garden was the brainchild of John Stevens Henslow, Professor of Botany at the University from 1825 until his death in 1861 and the loved and revered mentor of Charles Darwin. Henslow’s research focused on the nature and origin of species, and his influence and inspiration is much credited in Darwin’s revolutionary work. Founded in 1846, the Garden was home to 8,000 plant species, including an array of trees which form one of the UK’s finest arboretums. Designing the furniture for this prestigious laboratory was an honour.

Architects Stanton Williams were appointed to design what had to be a signature building in every respect. ‘One of the ways that Stanton Williams really distinguished themselves,’ says Roger Freedman, the Foundation’s Chief Scientific Advisor to the Sainsbury Laboratory, ‘was that they dedicated quite a long time to understanding what their remit was, what the building had to be. And they also took time to look at the site. And when they had digested those issues, that was when they started sketching out general ideas. They really listened.’

The design development process involved many meetings and models, and repeated visits to the building to understand it better. Furniture designers and architect also examined the stainless steel welding in the selected specialist custom fabrication workshops, and visited the upholsterers to test the ‘give’ in the dual foam layers, to decide on cricket ball seams or pleated ones, to control the stretching and stitching to ensure the leather would not crease or ruck up.

For more information:

View the Sainsbury Labatory Institue Project


Enjoy the article? Delve deeper into Luke Hughes & Company’s place in the Arts and Crafts tradition with the fascinating new book 'Furniture in Architecture' . Available through Thames & Hudson

Topics: furniture design, Case Study, Education & Research, UK

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