MPhil Architecture + Urban Design / University of Cambridge

BA (Hons) Architecture / University of Manchester


This website is a curation of my design research project for the MPhil Architecture + Urban Design, University of Cambridge.


University of Cambridge Degree Show

Established in 1952, the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire – known by the acronym CERN – is a radiant example of post-war cooperation and optimism. Now, as the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, its Franco-Swiss site accommodates 15,000 scientists from over 120 nations; in the pursuit of enlightenment through experimental science. Birthplace of both the World Wide Web and the Large Hadron Collider – the largest and most complex machine ever made – CERN is positioned at the forefront of human enquiry. In an ocean of global research dominated by corporate-interest, it also remains a beacon of publicly-funded ‘open science’. However, at present, the organisation faces a challenge at its foundations. Responding to rapid changes in technology and experiments over the last 60 years, construction of the vast CERN campus developed incrementally and in an ad hoc fashion. The result is a fractured assembly of sheds, storage halls, and experimental infrastructure; many of which lie discarded and obsolete. While in the past, piecemeal development enabled the organisation to expand organically, today, it poses an impediment to its function. Fundamental shifts in the practice of research necessitate a new model of laboratory environment; one which must facilitate an unprecedented scale of human collaboration. Meanwhile, as the size of commissions increases parallel to the speed of technological advance, there is a growing need for intervention to deal with the issue of obsolescence and demolition.


My MPhil thesis at the University of Cambridge investigates the architecture of scientific research institutions and presents a resilient strategy for this pioneering European project. By proposing the transformation of a decommissioned particle accelerator to create a commons for CERN, the scheme attempts to demonstrate the potential of post-experimental re-use, and the role of environment in cultivating collaborative research.


© 2021 Charlie White

Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge