The HiLASE project was commissioned in 2011 and has been fully operational since March 2015. As befits such innovative technology, the centre is clean-lined and high-tech in both its appearance and functionality. 

It comprises a two-storey “mechanically and thermally stabilised” hall and three-storey administrative wing, and replaces a handful of agriculture and storages buildings on a fairly bleak treeless urban site, adjacent to a new town square. The centre is bordered to the north by an existing town hall and to the east by an historic chateau. 

The HiLASE Centre sits to the south of this square, and its design, according to architect David Leníček, from Prague-based Len +a Architects, was influenced heavily by its setting and the aesthetics of neighbouring buildings. The administrative part of the centre faces the square, as a cantilevered, glass-fronted metal-walled structure, which seems to levitate effortlessly above the set-back ground floor and entrance. 

A significant aspect of layout of the building is the “strict separation” of the various operations within; visitors access the entrance hall with its spacious back-lit atrium, showroom, lecture hall and meeting rooms via the ground-floor front entrance. 

From the entrance hall, administrative workers use key cards to access offices on the first and second floors, while scientific staff have to put on special clean-area clothing in dressing rooms on the ground floor before entering the laser hall and associated research rooms. 

The centre comprises a reinforced monolithic concrete skeleton and brickwork. To minimise vibration, the 39m x 21m research hall housing the laser equipment is structurally isolated from the rest of the building. “It is also statically and dynamically stabilised under the base plate to eliminate vibrations unsuitable for laser measuring and other operations within the research area” Leníček explains. 

The part of the building that arches over the laser hall is more conventional in structure with prefabricated reinforced concrete plate girders. A ceiling suspended under this provides a space for the compressed air, compressed nitrogen, helium, cooling water, air conditioning, electrical and other services needed for research purposes within the laser hall.

While the façade of laser hall building comprises hand-drawn, slotted plaster, that of the more futuristic administrative building comprises what the architect describes as “a sheath of champagne coloured brushed aluminium cladding… the reflective effect of which visual relieves the mass of the building”.

The Dekcassette LE two-way DKM2A aluminium cladding is a bent element system of interlocking cartridges, which are screwed invisibly to the bearing grid and applied by Czech companies Dekmetal and BR-Invest. Manufactured from 1mm-thick Alunatur Champagne-coloured brushed aluminium from Euramax, it is a durable and cost-effective component of attractive and highly innovative building which more than complies with 21st century standards.

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