A building for building healthier lives; the Quadram Institute

1st September 2023

Opened in 2018, our building has features inspired by our food, microbiology and health research

The Quadram Institute building is one of the newest on Norwich Research Park. Opened in 2018, our building brings together researchers, academics and NHS clinicians to address global challenges in human health, food and disease.

Our labs and offices accommodate around 300 researchers and our Endoscopy Centre has a clinical outpatient capacity for 40,000 cases each year.

Both inside and out, our state-of-the-art building has features inspired by the shapes and forms of our work in research and healthcare. In this blog we find out what they are.

Digestive system gives inspiration for landscape gardens

As you first approach the building, from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, you’ll find yourself following a flowing path surrounded by undulating grassy mounds.

The undulation of these mounds and curving paths is inspired by the shapes of the human digestive system. The concept is based on individuals being nutrients to the building, as they are key to the success of the building.

Subtle curves represent the mucosal villi. Mucosal villi are small, finger-like projections that line the inside of the small intestine. At the Quadram Institute we are home to Europe’s largest Endoscopy Centre and scientists working on world-leading research into the gut microbiome.

DNA analysis inspired sun shading

The South Side of the Quadram Institute building with sun shades inspired by DNA barcoding

DNA sequencing is key to much of our scientific research. It allows our scientists to learn and understand genetic information about microbes and human bodies, to improve health.

DNA barcoding is a way to use a short genetic region acting as a “barcode” in a similar way that Universal Product Codes are used by supermarket scanners to distinguish commercial products.

The south side of the Quadram Institute building is inspired by DNA sequencing and barcoding. Sunshades cover the windows on this side of the building take artistic inspiration from the pattern of DNA barcodes.

Cell structure

Aspects of the building’s layout take inspiration from the structure of a biological cell.

The cell membrane is analogous in this case to the exterior building form. Inside the building, the laboratories can be found on one side of the building, with offices on the other. The space formed between lab and office blocks exposes or showcases the inner workings of the building to visitors, staff and passersby.


The atrium is the space in the centre of the building that connects all the spaces together, including the labs, offices as well as the Clinical Research Facility, Endoscopy department and our public café.

As well as being partly and loosely inspired by the structure of a cell, the organic flowing shapes of the balconies on the office-side of the building echoes forms found in the internal lining of the gut. While the inner lining of the human gut is curved to maximise surface areas for food absorption, the space around the atrium has an increased surface area to maximise visual connection and internal space.

If you’d like to see our building, you can take a virtual tour of the Quadram Institute.

Related Research Areas

A green background with an illustration of a gut full of microbes.

Food, Microbiome and Health

A black background with a spherical form of green and purple bacteria. Radiating out from the central spherical form and green and purple streaks.

Microbes and Food Safety