The University of Southampton

Three years on from Mountbatten fire, researchers celebrate

Published: 29 October 2008

Exactly three years to the day from the fire that destroyed a leading research facility, the imposing building that has taken its place is now open to students and staff.

The new Mountbatten Building on the Highfield Campus occupies the same footprint as its predecessor, and is a substantial architectural triumph. The £55M building is also one of Europe’s leading multidisciplinary and state-of-the-art clean room complexes. It provides flexible research space for world-leading technology development in nanotechnology and photonics for the University’s School of Electronics and Computer Science and the Optoelectronics Research Centre.

Both inside and outside, with its laboratories, teaching space, and impressively spacious atrium, the Mountbatten Building makes a statement. The design is bold and modern, the building’s glass curtain walls – graced by a mathematical fractal pattern – enable those outside to view the research taking place in the clean rooms.

“The new building has literally risen like a phoenix from the ashes of its predecessor,” said Professor Harvey Rutt, Head of the School of Electronics and Computer Science.

“It provides the environment and facilities that will enable us to carry out fundamental and transformative research at the nanoscale and our cleanrooms will enable us to forge new partnerships with others working at the leading edge of technology. It fully realizes the University’s commitment made the day after the fire, to ensure that our research would continue in even better and more appropriate surroundings.”

“On behalf of the ORC, I am very excited at the prospect of getting our laboratories back after three years of making-do in temporary facilities,” said Professor David Payne, Director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre. “This magnificent clean room building is unique and world leading in its imaginative vision for the integration of nanoscience, photonics and optical fibre technology. With the devastating fire well and truly behind us, we can now rapidly rebuild our reputation as the foremost photonics centre in the world.”

With staff and students now based in the building, fitting out of the clean rooms is under way to ensure the extremely rigorous environmental conditions required for the research to take place at the nanoscale.

The day following the fire, the University’s Vice-Chancellor Bill Wakeham had promised that: “We are committed to rebuilding, and that out of these tragic events will emerge something bigger and better.”

Today Professor Wakeham commented that: “We have been able to fulfil my promise made three years ago. Staff and students are starting to move in to this stunning new facility and I look forward to seeing the positive impact that this will have on their world-leading research.”

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