On a side street behind the Royal London hospital, a giant brown hedgehog can be found dominating a space between two low rise buildings.
It’s not art, although it could well be, but is a blurring of art and architecture, for this is in fact, a classroom for students. The aim is to provide a multi-functional space for live science shows, hands-on workshops, experiments, debates, films and exhibitions.
It’s officially a “2-storey elevated ‘pod’ structure with connecting bridge as an extension to the existing Centre of the Cell at Queen Mary’s Blizard Building” and called the Neuron Pod.
But it looks like a slightly balding hedgehog.
It was originally going to be rather more hairsuite though, as the original plans called for 1,300 lit acrylic hairs, but that was cut to 500 to save money and space inside the internal walls.
The Neuron Pod was constructed from 13 large prefabricated steel sections which were then assembled on site earlier this year. The head, or at least the neck, for the head is absent is on the other side and connects to an already existing footbridge via a short spur that was added.
It doesn’t look like it could from the outside, but it can house 60 people inside for lectures and events, so it makes quite a big impact on how many people the education facility can handle each day.
It’s a distinctive new building, and if it were on a main street would rightly be a local landmark. In its current location it’s hidden away, and thus doubly rewarding to seek out.
The Neuron Pod was designed by Professor Will Alsop OBE RA, and funders of the £1.9m project include the Wellcome Trust, Barts Charity, the Wolfson Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, Hobson Charity, Gosling Foundation and QMUL.