Jožef Štefan Institute – IJSplus

Jožef Štefan Institute – IJSplus

Shaping Conditions for the Future of Research at Jožef Štefan Institute

A Slovenian leading scientific research Institute embarks on a participatory journey to shape the vision for their new research building, overcoming the challenge of combining diverse user needs and a rapidly evolving scientific landscape.


Jožef Štefan Institute



The Challenge of Crafting a Concise Architectural Brief Amid Diverse Needs

Jožef Štefan Institute is the leading Slovenian scientific research institute, covering a broad spectrum of basic and applied research. The staff of about 1170 specializes in natural sciences, life sciences and engineering. In 2023, we led them through a process of co-creating a user-centric, clear, and detailed architectural brief for their new research building, IJSplus.

The goal of the project was to shape the program of the building and its long-term vision, understand spatial needs of diverse users, translate these into guidelines for architecture, gain consensus among internal stakeholders, and align the vision with broader expectations of national strategies and global trends.

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Excellent collaboration that provided employees with the opportunity to express their needs and expectations for the new space and professionally guided the process through which we aligned priorities.

Martina Knavs

Jožef Štefan Insitute

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A bottom up approach

Given the multifaceted nature of this challenge and the intricate governance structure of the Institute, coupled with numerous departments and their diverse needs, we tailored a co-creative approach.

The process began with in-depth research on future users needs, expectations, experience and aspirations. Through interviews and observation, we gathered over 550 insights from a wide range of employees. The interpretation of this data led to the identification of 26 problem areas that require attention in the new building. Our research uncovered opportunities that extended beyond architectural solutions, suggesting improvements in building management, (digital) services, etc.

After presenting research findings, we invited representatives from different departments to a co-creative workshop. As experts of their scientific fields, they led the design of their laboratory workspaces by 'sketching' their ideal working conditions and spatial requirements presented by experimental work. During workshops, we established a consensus about program priorities - compromises were judiciously made, safeguarding the Institute's core mission and excellence.

Guiding Principles for Science-Centric IJSplus building

Conclusions formed an architectural brief with guiding principles. Foremost among these is the building's primary purpose - to provide impeccable conditions for conducting experiments, even if it necessitates compromises in areas such as office and conference space. Additionally, the facility is envisioned as a hub for innovation, functioning as an incubator, providing specialised space for temporarily enlarged space needs of various research departments and interdisciplinary teams. A crucial aspect is its adaptability, designed to meet the ever-changing scientific landscape, demanding an innovative approach to space and installation planning. Furthermore, the building should foster collaboration, support new work modes, and instilling a sense of connectedness of inhabitants with colleagues from across the Institute campus. Beyond internal functions, building should enable employees to showcase their work, igniting enthusiasm for science within a broader audience.

Jožef Štefan Institute – IJSplus