The Neuron Pod was designed by the late architect Will Alsop of all Design who took inspiration from images of a nerve cell for the unique design. It is the latest addition to the Centre of the Cell, award-winning science education and medical research centre located at the Blizard Institute on the Whitechapel campus of Queen Mary’s University, London. The pod is a multi-functional space that can be used as an auditorium for live science presentations, film screenings and debates, together with workshops, experiments and exhibitions. It will increase the centre’s ability to interact with the local community, providing more space for their programmes for school children and young people with learning difficulties.
The main body of the exterior, that LWL fabricated and installed, is made from corten and weathering steel of various thicknesses. Before fabrication these were laser cut with hundreds of holes to seat the fibre optic strands that cover the outside. These hair-like ‘dendrites’ reflect the external features of a nerve cell which is emphasised when they are illuminated at night. Internally, to provide strength to the structure, a latticework of mild steel was used with insulation in the voids. The legs that support the pod taper down into points on the ground and were the first thing to be installed, with the main upper section of the pod being added next. The neck was installed separately, followed by the galvanised steel walkway which connects the pod to the main building.
The Neuron Pod is 23-metres long by 10-metres high and is constructed of 13 large steel sections. The assemblies range from 1.5 tons to 7.7 tons with a total weight of approximately 46 tons. It took 11 weeks for the design work, 24 weeks for fabrication, and 10 weeks to install.