A little over a year after opening, the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery has been named the 2012 Laboratory of the Year for its innovative architecture and laboratory design.
The WID is a biomedical research partnership located on the UW-Madison campus that includes the privately-funded nonprofit Morgridge Institute for Research and the publicly-funded Wisconsin Institute for Discovery.
R&D Magazine, a research and development magazine, selected the WID for the award as part of its annual contest, crediting the building’s architecture as the primary factor. The openness of the building’s design is intended to foster collaboration between the two institutes that it houses.
“It’s certainly a huge compliment to the people who work here,” Interim Associate WID Director Matthew Weed said. “It’s the culmination of a hard-fought, well-organized, well-considered plan that I think speaks actually as much to the people who have been involved ... as to the people who are involved now.”
Weed also praised the building’s openness for its ability to increase communication between different disciplines of scientists.
“This isn’t the standard laboratory building,” Weed said. “Here, you’ve got [scientists] who think about a lot of different things and that’s a really creative and new way of trying to attack the old problem of how to get scientists to be as creative as possible.”
He also said the building, which includes a garden and coffee shop, encourages visitors to the lab and creates an environment where community members can engage in conversations with scientists.
“It’s meant to help the nonscientists interact with both scientists and with the people who work in the building to facilitate our getting ideas from outside the walls of the scientific lab, and that’s a very unusual and extraordinary opportunity,” Weed said.
Weed added the institute received the award in part from its environmentally friendly design, which includes an ability to retain heat, that earned the building a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold rating.
According to Krakauer, all these features combine to give the WID a unique interdisciplinary character that sets it apart from competitors.
“It’s both the culture of the building and the reflection of the culture in the architecture,” he said. “We wanted a building that would effortlessly promote collaboration among these communities.”