A large building in East London will soon be filled with old tube trains, and an old aeroplane, as part of a UCL laboratory.
To be completed in 2021, PEARL (Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory) will be the only space in the world where researchers can precisely simulate large-scale environments such as train stations or town centres and test people’s reactions to them in detail.
The research centre will build on the work of PAMELA (UCL Pedestrian Accessibility Movement Environment Laboratory) which has informed the design of proposed new London Underground trains to make them more accessible for disabled people, and identified ways of improving infrastructure for people with dementia.
At 14 metres tall and with 600 square metres of reconfigurable floor space, PEARL will have the ability to simulate scenarios, recreating smells such as gas leaks and sounds ranging from the tiniest bird song to massive explosions.
Planning permission was granted by Barking and Dagenham Council last week.
UCL says that it expects to obtain 4 to 8 decommissioned tube or train carriages for use in PEARL experiments. These will normally be stored in the yard space outside the building and brought into the lab space through large doors at either end when required. PEARL also plans to use a selection of the carriages as meeting / work spaces.
The facility, located near Dagenham East tube station, will also be one of the core laboratories in the UK government’s EPSRC-funded UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC).