University shares top architecture prize

THE home of one of Scotland's most innovative university departments has won a top prize for its architecture.

The Informatics Forum at the University of Edinburgh was presented with the Andrew Doolan Award for the best building in Scotland at a ceremony on Friday night.

The university department shared the 25,000 award with a refurbished 18th-century stable block in the Castlemilk housing estate in Glasgow, which was brought back to life by Elder & Cannon Architects.

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The university's 41.2m, five-storey glass building, built around an indoor courtyard with a spiral staircase suspended between the floors, was built by capital firm Bennetts Associates to reflect the department's ground-breaking work.

Sustainable techniques were also used by architects to decrease the carbon footprint of the building – such as collecting rainwater to use in the flushing of toilets.

Earlier this year, Scotland on Sunday reported on the wide range of inventions coming out of the Informatics Forum, which concerns the study of information and combines science and engineering to solve problems.

Products as diverse as a 'babel fish' device that can translate speech into any language and a water-purifying plant that produced electricity as a by-product were being developed by the department's 600 scientists, who come from 64 countries.

A spokeswoman for Bennets Associates said judges were impressed by how the Potterrow building encouraged communication between experts from different fields in its communal spaces.

She said: "There are dedicated drop-in spaces, with bean bags and comfy chairs, for staff from other campuses and departments to filter in their research. This is an unprecedented approach in academic architecture that demonstrates a real effort to create spaces that endorse the cross-fertilisation of ideas."

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