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Planning permission granted for new Usher Institute

The University of Edinburgh has been granted planning permission for construction of the new Usher Institute for Population Health Sciences to commence in July 2021 on Edinburgh BioQuarter.

The new institute will primarily offer workplaces facilitating innovative research for both Usher users and commercial partners. Additional amenity spaces distributed throughout the new building’s four occupied floors will further encourage collaboration and public engagement including ground floor events and innovation spaces, café, meeting rooms (both shared and dedicated), informal breakout zones, and winter gardens.

International design studio Hassell drew up the plans for the new space which will be the heart of research on Edinburgh BioQuarter for around 600 academics and researchers. The researchers will work alongside private commercial bodies and development experts from Scottish Enterprise, all sharing knowledge.

A space to inspire innovation, team integration and serendipitous interactions drove the design of this new building, a major addition to the rapidly expanding BioQuarter – and vision to create Edinburgh’s Health Innovation District.

The look of the 13,500 square metre structure is both tiered and linear, and the designers want to promote the use of stairs as the main means of getting about, so promoting healthy working. Internally there are three light wells forming large open circulation zones promoting “activity and interconnectivity”.

A striking landmark for Edinburgh and a recognisable identity for the University, the institute is visually connected to the city’s historic castles through a simple, repetitive arrangement of its solid façade.

The design for the ground floor is very open so that it extends from the public realm space beyond, connecting the users within the building to the rest of BioQuarter.

The facilities include an 80 person learning studio, a flexible event space for teaching and academic conferences, meeting and interview rooms, and an outreach room for community engagement. The innovation hub will have a digital screen wall to exhibit research to audiences.

Ongoing global limitations have demonstrated that remote working is often feasible, and reinforces the University’s goal to create a building with a shifting emphasis towards collaborative work and the spaces required to support it. The Usher Institute will be a place people want to work, and will provide a flexible environment to deliver innovative research both now and in the future.