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Competition: Cambridge Junction – Level Up

Cambridge Junction
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Cambridge City Council is seeking an architect for an estimated £30 million regeneration of its landmark Cambridge Junction arts venue

The winning team will draw up plans to upgrade and expand the complex’s existing performance spaces while also creating a masterplan exploring options for new complementary commercial uses within its former cattle market site.

The project, planned to complete in 2024, aims to attract new audiences to Cambridge Junction while also securing its long-term ‘organisational resilience and financial sustainability’.

The venue was created on the site of a disused cattle market close to the railway station in the south of the city. Built in part as a response to the illegal party scene in Cambridgeshire, the transformed building was opened by broadcaster John Peel in 1990.

Following several upgrades, including one by Project 5 Architecture, the complex now hosts a large 850-capacity space for music, comedy and clubs; a 220-seated venue for theatre, dance and music; and a 100-capacity room for smaller performances and rehearsals.

In its brief, the council says it is ‘looking to engage a lead designer who will appoint and co-ordinate a cohesive design team of technical experts for the redevelopment of the Cambridge Junction facility.

‘The design team will also be expected to develop a masterplan which maximises both the footprint and airspace growth potential for the site in addition to better utilising some of the parking area on the site.’

A series of pop-up pavilions reflecting on emerging technology and designed by architect Charles Holland were exhibited outside Cambridge Junction last month.

The latest project will invest around £19 million in upgrading the venue to meet the needs of Cambridge’s growing population. A site-wide masterplan will also explore the potential for integrating a wider creative hub featuring commercial enterprises and offices.

Bids will be evaluated 70 per cent on quality and 30 per cent on cost. The deadline for applications is midday, 31 May.

How to apply

View the contract notice for more information

Contact details

Chantel Allott
Cambridgeshire District Councils
Cambridge City Council

Tel: +44 1223458177
Email: chantel.allott@cambridge.gov.uk 



Matt Burman, Cambridge Junction artistic director

Matt Burman, Cambridge Junction artistic director

Matt Burman, Cambridge Junction artistic director

Source: Hugo Glendinning

Matt Burman, Cambridge Junction artistic director

What is your vision for the future of Cambridge Junction and its surrounding site?

The vision for Cambridge Junction’s future, jointly developed with Cambridge City Council who own the building and support our programme and organisation, is to strive to be the UK’s most inspiring centre for the performing arts and grow a risk-taking audience through an engaging programme representing inclusive practices. We want to broaden our role as a centre for the arts and communities, to include the creative industries and technological and scientific innovation and learning. We will work to lead the way in supporting artists and their development and will emphasise work for, by and with young people, co-created with acclaimed artists and companies. Through this vision we will connect with our communities, communicate with passion and commit to embracing change. Our redevelopment is crucial to achieving this vision and will also help secure our sustainability and resilience as an organisation.

This project is rich with the potential to be transformational, not just for Cambridge Junction, but also for arts and cultural provision in the city and region, supporting a core offer essential to the city’s quality of life and well-being, and delivering to a growing population by becoming the place where the arts and technology meet life. This project will enable Cambridge Junction to be a truly contemporary cultural destination and gateway to the city, a space for a diversity of audiences and tenants, which will allow us to better understand, question and celebrate the world around us.

We want to redevelop our main gig and club venue (known as J1) to make it more accessible and adaptable and include a new 500-seat system to increase the range of work we can present in there. We want to increase the number of studio spaces in the building so we can accommodate more residency time for artists and companies, more creative learning and community activities, as well as increase audiences to a wider presentation programme. We want to join up and enhance our social and foyer spaces, with a new food and beverage offer, that meets the needs of our audiences and people wishing to find space to meet and work during the day. We want to massively increase the work and office space on the site, and to attract tenants from across the creative and tech sectors, so that we might become a focus of creativity and innovation for the city and the region.

Both Cambridge City Council and Cambridge Junction recently declared climate emergency and so environmental sustainability will be a key consideration in selecting our design team. We will be looking for innovation in designing a project which maximises the potential of our site, delivering a world-class building that is as dynamic as the programme and new tenants it will contain.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

We’re hoping to see tenders from a range of practices and teams, local, national and international. The visibility of the site and the vision we want to realise will allow the lead design team to help visualise a project that will be used over the years by audiences in their millions and seen by tens of millions of people visiting the city each year. This is a fantastic opportunity which I hope will be really attractive to a lot of established and emerging teams.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

Cambridge City Council has a varied capital development programme across its asset portfolio and is delivering an ambitious growth area programme. Opportunities are available for consideration through the online procurement portal.

Are there any other recent performance venue regeneration projects you have been impressed by?

I think Bristol Old Vic’s transformation by Howarth Tompkins (2018) is stunning. I love how usable the social spaces are and how they have achieved intimacy at scale, at Home in Manchester (Space Architects and Charcoal Blue; 2015). And the development of Evolutionary Arts Hackney (EartH) by Village Underground (not sure who their designers were) is fantastic.

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