The objective for this new microbiology lab in Athens, Greece, designed by Schema Architecture and Engineering, was to adequately and efficiently fit all the complex services that a diagnostic center offers in a small space of 80 square meters.

The space is located on the street level of a large 1980s-era polykatoikia – the most common multistory apartment building in the Athenian urban environment. The building is situated on a small street of an old neighborhood, full of pedestrian traffic, and its large glass façade used to front a retail store and pharmacy. The drawback was that the façade was used only at the street level, leaving the rest of the space inside quite dark. The upper part of the street façade was initially covered by an aluminum structure used as a sign for the pharmacy.

The space’s new use as a microbiology lab required a lot of natural light coming in, but with a degree of privacy. Channel glass was thus chosen for the façade material for its translucency, safety, thermal qualities, and noise reduction.

The original space was set in two separate levels: the ground floor, half of which was a double-height space and was used as retail, and the loft above, which was used as storage. The concept for the lab immediately focused on a folding element that served multiple purposes: (1) to connect the two separate levels, while separating the distinct functions, and (2) to situate the more public spaces in the front and the most private at the back. Thus, the waiting area and the main office were placed at the front double-height space, and the laboratory was placed at the back in a more private setting. The movement around the folding element became almost circular, driven by the dark wood material choice.

The laboratory space was configured in a linear manner, forming a work triangle, making this small room as efficient as possible. The folding element also became itself a functioning device, working as storage at the laboratory, a boundary to the public uses, and the office table top at the loft.

The stairway was built as a floating, folding stair with thick steel steps and risers that become almost self-supporting.