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Neubau converts shipping container into porters’ lodge for Cambridge college

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The repurposed container provides much-needed facilities and a redefined entrance route to the college

Hughes Hall was until now the only college of the University of Cambridge without a porters’ lodge. A small booth at the entrance to the dining hall had been serving as a base for a limited number of porters, while a reception for visitors and other associated spaces, such as parcel storage and pigeon holes for the students’ mail, existed in different locations around the college.

Following Hughes Hall’s decision to expand its porters team, there was a need for a dedicated space that would consolidate all porterage-related functions and spaces. The college required a fast and short-term solution, and initial ideas for a rented Portakabin or similar temporary structure were dismissed for their inability to deliver a space of appropriate design quality alongside a Grade II-listed building.


Hughes Hall Porters’ Lodge by Neubau

In response to these issues, Neubau Architecture’s proposal for the bespoke conversion of a shipping container was well received from the outset by the college as well as planning and conservation officers.

The lodge has been divided in plan along its length into three parts: the reception area with pigeon holes, the porters’ office area, and the parcel and storage area at the rear. The large doors of the shipping container remain operational and provide secondary access to the storage area directly from the outside, for larger items.

The front end has had its corrugated wall panel completely removed and replaced by a single, full-size double glazed unit glued into an open steel frame that was formed directly on the container. Two large fully glazed side apertures with tilt and turn windows allow the porters to communicate with and control passing traffic: pedestrians on one side and vehicles on the other.

03 NGUT 1418 Neubau34

Hughes Hall Porters’ Lodge by Neubau

The positioning of the lodge hopes to create a new landscaped entrance court out of a previously neglected and unused gravelled area known by staff as the ’kitty litter’. The landscape design introduced large circular metal planters and heavy railway sleeper benches to quickly deliver a new seating area among plants and small trees, while defining the pedestrian entrance route.

The interior has been insulated and lined with birch plywood, with the floor covered in vinyl in the Hughes Hall blue colour. In the reception area, the 476 bespoke pigeon holes hang from the ceiling and cover the entire length of the wall. Opposite  a small waiting area is formed with a table and two chairs against the backdrop of the college’s old flag.

Project data

Start on site 03 May 2018
12 June 2018
Gross internal floor area 30m²
Form of contract Design & Build
Construction cost Confidential
Neubau Architecture 
Hughes Hall of the University of Cambridge
Project manager 
Hughes Hall
CDM coordinator
 Hughes Hall
Approved building inspector 
3C Shared Services
Main contractor B S S R Ltd
Estimated annual CO2 emissions 70kg/m²

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Let me see if I have this right - A Portakabin was deemed inappropriate alongside a Grade 2 listed building yet a hideous shipping container is thought OK?
    Surely the porter deserves better as do those who pass by on a regular basis.

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