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Stanton Williams completes key-worker housing in North West Cambridge

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The scheme for 264 key-worker homes is combined with community and retail facilities around a network of communal courts and spaces

Stanton Williams’ mixed-use scheme completes one of the largest elements in the centre of the University of Cambridge’s Eddington development. Sitting on a 1.8ha plot, it’s designed as a loose orthogonal arrangement of 10 buildings that work back from the central market square, framing a series of progressively less hard-edged and more residential courts and communal spaces, culminating in a large landscaped quad-like space.

Further smaller spaces and passages interconnect the larger courts and surrounding streets, providing permeability at a nicely urbane but intimate scale, with elements like single-storey cycle pavilions breaking down the scale and massing of the larger blocks.

Sw cambridge 088 (c)jackhobhouse

Sw cambridge 088 (c)jackhobhouse

The scheme primarily consists of affordable housing for university staff, with community facilities, retail space and some market housing. Many apartments are dual-aspect, allowing for natural cross-ventilation with good daylighting from floor-to-ceiling windows in a mix of one, two and four-bedroom dwellings, including wheelchair-accessible units. Apartments were designed to meet the Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5, while retail units and non-residential spaces are designed to target BREEAM Excellent.

Materially, the blocks’ façades use two types of yellow gault brick, a typical Cambridge material. These look a little bald higher up – the default use of vertical-slot window forms appearing somewhat regimented and bland when used across much of the scheme, although relieved in the largest court, with deck access allowing a colonnaded attic-storey to the block. Towards ground level however, there is stronger articulation with the use of recessed brick piers and horizontal precast concrete cills, which add to the nice level of detail at thresholds and the way entrances are made, with timber-lined porches and solid timber doors.

Sw cambridge 121 (c)jackhobhouse

Sw cambridge 121 (c)jackhobhouse

Indeed it is the quality of how the buildings hit ground and the making, landscaping and planting of the series of spaces that is the undoubted success of the scheme. Stanton Williams worked with landscape architect J+L Gibbons to create a rich variety of spaces that provide both informal and more structured areas that encourage communal use, with careful thought to materials and surfaces, including cobblestoned parts. ­

The spaces are further animated by cobbled rills that channel rainwater across the site, following primary pedestrian routes and terminating in attenuation pools. Planting includes edible plants and biodiversity is encouraged with the provision of bird boxes, inclusion of ponds, and through a mix of wild, meadowed and manicured lawn areas – creating different conditions like a series of small microclimates. Even the cycle sheds focus inwards towards central rain gardens lined with trees and seating.

This all ties in with the overall emphasis on environmental sustainability across North West Cambridge, in a masterplan that provides for limited car use, site-wide CHP and rainwater harvesting. But equally, from the evidence of the attention to detail and design of the common parts, this scheme highlights careful thought going into ensuring social sustainability.

Sw cambridge 114 (c)jackhobhouse

Sw cambridge 114 (c)jackhobhouse

Architect’s view

Our designs build upon the principle of a network of spaces, differentiated in scale and character, that together create an engaging public realm analogous to the traditional city. We’re delighted with the positive feedback we have received from the first residents.

Gavin Henderson, principal director, Stanton Williams 

Sw nwcambridge level00 1to1500 annotated

Sw nwcambridge level00 1to1500 annotated

Project data

Start on site 2015
Completion 2019
Gross internal area 23,000m² (residential: 22,157m²; conference room / offices 831m²; retail 1,275m²)
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect Stanton Williams
Client The University of Cambridge
Landscape architect J&L Gibbons
Structural engineer URS (pre-planning) / MLM (post-planning)
M&E engineer URS (pre-planning) / Hoare Lea (post-planning)
Sustainability, environmental and acoustic engineer URS (pre-planning) / HRS (post-planning)
Quantity surveyor Gardiner and Theobald
Project manager Turner & Townsend
Principal designer Faithfull+Gould
Fire engineer IFC
Accessibility consultant Centre for Accessible Environments
Master plan and planning AECOM
Cost manager Gardiner and Theobald
Supervisor Calford Seaden
Building control Cambridge City Council
CDM consultant Faithful and Gould
Contractor Wates Construction
Code for Sustainable Homes and BREEAM Assessor NHBC

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