Napp Laboratories
Cambridge Science Park
Milton Road
Cambridge CB4 4GW
United Kingdom

Arthur Erickson 1983

The Napp Laboratories building was part of the early development of Cambridge’s highly successful Science Park. Its size (much the largest building in the Park), striking design (sometimes described locally as a toaster), and prominent location all make it a distinctive landmark.

Canadian architect Arthur Erickson, who won the international design competition, describes the building:

Designed as a low-profile structure, the building's exterior glass block curtain wall and aluminum-clad arches achieve the blending of its industrial character with the historic pastoral Cambridgeshire landscape. The linear structure of the building allows for virtually unlimited extension and internal flexibility, while the sloping glazed curtain wall effects an aesthetically pleasing 'soft transition' between building and sky.

The design for this complex takes great care to harmonize with the pastoral characteristics of the landscape. The building itself reflects the bank by hugging the ground, while the placement of the buildings complement the existing hedgerows, as does the planting of rows of hawthorns and poplar against long earth banks to screen parking, recreational and garden areas. The use of a canal alongside the building serves to recall the association of building with water in the historic Cambridge area.


This rather organic perspective is an optimistic description of the clinical, bright-white prisms lying in geometric landscaping. The sheer scale of the now-expanded building ensures that even its “low-profile”, “ground-hugging” design has an imposing presence. But it is a positive presence, with an elegant simplicity of form that continues to look like new after more than twenty years.

Simon Glynn 2006


How to visit

The building is a working pharmaceutical laboratory and manufacturing plant, and is not open to the public. However it can be clearly seen from the the Milton Road, traveling north out of Cambridge to the roundabout with the A14, and from the A14 roundabout itself. To see more closely, drive into the Science Park (entrance signposted from Milton Road), turn right, and right again for Napp Laboratories where there is a visitors’ car park.

For directions to and within the Cambridge Science Park please visit

Books and other web sites

Arthur Erickson provides more details about the building at his web site at

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