Concrete Elegance: A Wave, A Walk & Two Wonders

Gavin Henderson, Stanton Williams Architects
Mike Tonkin, Tonkin Liu Architects

Featuring Stanton Williams’ Sainsbury Research Laboratory in Cambridge, an international landmark building containing a collection of over a million plant specimens from around the world, including those collected by Darwin during his voyage on the Beagle. Mike Tonkin of Tonkin Liu Architects will also present the dazzling Dover Esplanade.

Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge.
Speaker: Gavin Henderson

Central to the building’s identity is the way in which it is experienced as a sequence of spaces that are conceived in terms of their relationship with the surrounding Botanic Garden. The laboratory’s different functions, and the landscape, are connected by a continuous route, recalling the ‘thinking path’ described by Charles Darwin - a way to reconcile nature and thought through the activity of walking. Here the ‘thinking path’ is reinterpreted in the tradition of a collegiate court as a space for reflection, debate and interaction.

The solidity implied by the strata-like conception of the building - using layers of exposed in-situ concrete and limestone - is countered by the permeability manifested in the expansive facade glazing. Internally, the visual contrast between concrete surfaces, the internal finishes and scientific apparatus, illustrates a balance between permanence and adaptability that underlies the performance and sustainability of the project.

Dover Esplanade.
Speaker: Mike Tonkin

The Dover Esplanade harnesses the architectural language of Dover’s identity; the gentle nature of waves on the sheltered beach, the rhythmical sweep of the Georgian Seafront Terrace and the undulating topography of the White Cliffs. The idea of the architecture is expressed as 'three waves' of visual interest that brings a new interactive dynamism to the esplanade.

The Lifting Wave is a repeated formation of sculptural ramps and staircases made of white concrete that rise and fall to connect the Esplanade to the lower shingle beach. The gentle ramps allow access for all and the sinuous line brings dynamic forms to the beach. The Resting Wave is a sculptural precast retaining wall that runs the length of the Esplanade, providing bay spaces with seating, sheltered from the south-westerly wind and orientated towards the sun. Recessed bays within the wall incorporate benches made of weathered oak, which has been shot-blasted and bleached to bring their materiality close to that of ocean driftwood. The Lighting Wave is a sculptural line of white columns with artwork that complements the sweeping form of the sea wall and terrace, bringing improved amenity lighting and programmed lighting sequences to the Esplanade.

Chaired by David Bennett.
Sponsored by The Concrete Centre and Kier Ltd. This event is free to attend but booking is essential.