The PKdM team was determined to push the boundaries of design on Alvogen’s Iceland headquarters. The aim of the design was to strike the right balance between a creative and unconventional environment, on one hand, and the aseptic requirements of the pharmaceutical industry, on the other. No mere conventional office or lab facility, then, the building reflects the dynamic and diverse groups of professionals interacting daily within its walls. The predominant color used is white, highlighting the pharmaceutical qualities of cleanliness and purity in overlapping layers throughout the building. Giving the scheme an overall coherence, the skin of the building was limited to three main materials: concrete, aluminium and glass. The sleek glazing on the northern-facing exterior is confronted with raw concrete inserts, which gradually become the main material of the outer walls. Directly to the north of the building is the area “Vatnsmýri”—Icelandic for “swamp,” and the light, reflective surface giving way to greater solidity mirrors the emergence of the city outwards from the immediate environment.
The area surrounding the Vatnsmýri marsh and bird preserve is currently undergoing an extensive transformation and urbanization, having been chosen as the new scientific hub of Iceland capital. The science park is the result of a collaboration among the City of Reykjavík, the University of Iceland, Reykjavík University, the Association of Municipalities in the Capital Area, and Landspítalinn, The National University Hospital. The mutual goal of all parties is to form an ambitious plan for the advancement of the Vatnsmýri area as a dynamic center for knowledge and innovation, with a key role in the development of the information economy in Iceland. The location, just south of the city center and in close proximity to Iceland’s main hospital and two largest universities, fosters important opportunities and possibilities in building a dynamic base of knowledge. A modern plan for the area can attract and nurture companies and research institutions with international ambitions in the information industry. Within this vision, the Alvogen building represents the beginning of the development of the new science park of Iceland.
As the building required one basement level, the solution to the potential problem of groundwater seepage was to treat the foundation as an “inverted swimming pool.” Over this rigid foundation rises a mixed structure, with of the outer walls made from reinforced concrete, with steel beams spanned between and precast slab sitting over it.
The technical concept for the building contained within this stunning shell is the work of M&W Central Europe GmbH, a global leader in the design, engineering and construction of high-tech facilities. Their mandate was to create a unique concept for an efficient, flexible, green, state-of-the-art facility, capable of delivering predefined quantities of high-quality biosimilar products—in a country where no such a facility had ever been built before. In essence, the design is a prototype for an entirely new industry in Iceland.
The conceptual design proposal needed to ensure that engineering, process layout and quality standards would be in compliance with the strictest global standards, in keeping with Alvotech’s goal of producing a wide range of affordable biosimilar pharmaceutical products for a varied international market. The facility had to be flexible, allowing operations to adapt to market demands with minimal changeover time. Process optimization analysis was key to ensuring the creation of an efficient facility that will allow Alvotech to execute its initiatives flawlessly. Space restrictions pushed the engineers to be creative: among other optimizations of allocated space, suspended walkable ceilings above a mezzanine floor allow for full maintenance of the equipment and cleanrooms, without disrupting operations. To maintain the seamless blending of the man-made and natural environment, the team enclosed the utilities within the building’s central core. Due to its location in the city center, in an environmentally protected zone, the facility was to be powered by green energy and leave a minimal environmental imprint.
From the outset, Alvotech has been determined to foster a closer relationship between the scientific, business and cultural sectors. This is symbolized in Alvotech’s Icelandic headquarters, where two of Iceland’s best-known and most internationally acclaimed artists were commissioned to produce works for the public areas. Pop artist Erró’s colorful large-scale digital collages in the office wing and public corridors, and Sigurður Guðmundsson’s sculptures in the atrium and exterior reflecting pool, connect the building to the rich history of the nearby university campus and surrounding city.
As a result of an international collaboration between scientists, engineers and architects and the craftsmanship of an array of technicians, contractors and renowned Icelandic artists, the building creates a dynamic, safe, efficient and exciting scientific environment which will attract talent from all around the world.
PKdM Arkitektar is a Nordic architecture and design studio. Its founder, Icelandic architect Palmar Kristmundsson, draws his inspiration from Iceland’s stunning natural landscape and from his encounters with vernacular Japanese architecture. The partner, Fernando de Mendonça brings a dynamic international perspective from large scale architectural projects in South America and Europe.