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Cottrell + Vermeulen wins Churchill College housing contest

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Cottrell + Vermeulen Architecture has won a competition for 30 new postgraduate homes at Churchill College, University of Cambridge

The studio, which employs several alumni from the college, beat a list of housing big hitters, including Accordia designer Alison Brooks Architects and Mole Architects. 

5th Studio – whose Wolfson Flats for the same client won top prize at the 2011 Retrofit Awards – and Proctor and Matthews Architects were also shortlisted in the contest for the prestigious job in Storeys Way.

The appointment comes 16 years after Cottrell + Vermeulen completed a £5 million postgraduate housing scheme for Churchill on a neighbouring site.

The new housing is located a short distance from the college’s iconic 1968 campus which was designed by Sheppard Robson founder Richard Sheppard following a competition.

A new halls of residence by 6a Architects is also due to complete in July.

Project description

Churchill College has a strategic need to provide postgraduate student accommodation due to growing demand and a desire to consolidate accommodation as close to the campus as possible.

The existing, flatroof two-storey 1960s building at no 36 was last used as office space for AECOM who is the current tenant. This office space is now surplus to their requirements. The adjacent pitched roof coach house (no 36A&B) to the north is used for student accommodation containing eight rooms.

The proposals are limited to the southern section of 36 Storeys Way and include the demolition of the existing two-storey office building, the construction of student accommodation in a group of three new buildings and associated landscaping.



Cottrell + Vermeulen Architecture’s competition-winning postgraduate homes for Churchill College, University of Cambridge

The project affords the opportunity to extend and consolidate the postgraduate campus within the College boundary. This would include the Wolfson Building, Whittinghame Lodge and the adjacent Broers, Bondi and Hawthorne Houses. In order to create continuity across the site, the architectural character of the new buildings and landscape are conceived as an extension of the Houses designed by Cottrell + Vermeulen, and completed in September 2000.

The architectural approach of the original houses sought to reflect both the materials and character of the Arts and Crafts Houses on Storeys Way, and the modernist buildings of Churchill College.

The accommodation includes 30 en-suite student rooms, 6 communal kitchens, 5 self-contained flats and associated support spaces. These buildings differ from the original houses by the ratio of student rooms to kitchens; 1:5 as opposed to 1:10. These are clustered on the upper floors of Houses 1&2, and ground and first floor of House 3. In addition, the ground floor of Houses 1 & 2 accommodate the independently entered, self-contained flats and support accommodation.

The accommodation has been spread across three buildings of varying height and orientation. This helps to break down the scale and massing of the development, responds to the narrowness of the plot and helps to reduce its impact on the Wolfson building.

The change in organisation and type of accommodation has created subtly different forms from the original buildings, whilst retaining the architectural character. The ground floor on Houses 1&2 are more open where glazing is required to the flats, and walls are extended into the landscape to define external entrance areas and private gardens. This creates a lightness to the upper floors which also recalls the architecture of the adjacent, listed Sheppard Flats. The clusters of 5 rooms and communal kitchen to each floor are contained within a more rectangular plan form, which is more reminiscent of the surrounding properties on Storeys Way.



Cottrell + Vermeulen Architecture’s competition-winning postgraduate homes for Churchill College, University of Cambridge

House 3 has only student rooms and is more similar in character to the original houses, providing a pivotal point between the proposed and original houses. It is also restricted to two storeys in response to the adjacent no. 36A&B.

The buildings will be clad primarily in plain clay tiles, with forms and profiles which refer back to both the original houses and the character of the buildings on Storeys Way. The roofs will be clad in standing seam metal and will incorporate photovoltaic panels. The ground floor cladding on houses 1&2 and landscape walls, will be a combination of concrete and brickwork.

The landscape strategy is to create a series of courts or external rooms, structured around existing mature trees and an extension of the cherry tree landscape around the original houses. Around the perimeter of Houses 1&2 smaller semi-private and private gardens will be created through garden walls and planting. To the south edge of the site, the mixed bed planting along Churchill Road is extended across to tie the site back into the main access ‘spine’ of the site. The landscape strategy will also allow for an accessible route between 36 Storeys Way and the rest of the College.



Cottrell + Vermeulen Architecture’s RIBA Award-winning postgrad housing for Churchill College, completed in 2000

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