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Robin Snell reveals plans for bamboo start-up studios in Cambridgeshire countryside

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Robin Snell and Partners has unveiled proposals for a series of bamboo, net-zero studios for start-up companies in rural Cambridgeshire

The 1,625m² project at Great Abington is aimed at ‘young entrepreneurs who currently struggle to find suitable affordable workspaces’. It is backed by engineering research and design company ARCC Innovations and pioneering businessman Edward Atkin.

The open-plan pavilions will be built from structural bamboo using prefabricated ‘repeatable modular construction components’ and will feature a long-span, Belfast Truss-style timber roof system.

Sat in open grassland, the new ‘loose-fit’, light touch and transparent buildings will also feature photovoltaics integrated into their structure.

A planning application is due for submission in March and, if approved, could start on site in the autumn.

08 arcc aerial view showing the masterplan concept 20190103 [web]

Aerial view showing the masterplan concept

Aerial view showing the masterplan concept


The architect’s view 

The idea of providing state-of-the-art studio-based workplaces to encourage collaborative working for start-up design companies in rural Cambridgeshire is the vision of Avent founder, Edward Atkin, and the key motivator for the project. The scheme aims to accommodate the needs of creative individuals and groups in the 21st century within an inspiring landscaped setting.

The project is specifically aimed at young designers and entrepreneurs who currently struggle to find suitable affordable workspaces and to help the commercialisation of their research and innovation. It seeks to enhance the rural workplace environment, within a social, collaborative and nurturing context, to engage and support young creative start-up companies.

It builds upon and extends the architectural ethos behind our Garsington Opera Pavilion at Wormsley, of a loose-fit, flexible architecture, and applies it to the everyday working studio environment.

The character of the site is that of a contained landscape of open grassland, enclosed by hedgerows and trees, accessed through a collection of existing buildings.

The design approach to this setting is to place a string of new light-touch and transparent pavilions which address the wider site like garden structures and gazebos. The intention is to create an enclosed garden with a new lake, copses of trees and walks; all within a few minutes’ walk of Great Abington Village, with access arrangements that point to the future and align with a sustainable travel agenda, so as to minimise the number of car journeys to and from the site.

At the core of the project is the existing research and design workroom hub, containing state-of-the-art high-tech equipment, for testing new ideas and products; allowing access to machining and modelling facilities that fledgeling companies might wish to use, but do not have the means to purchase. All welfare facilities to support the site are housed in the existing cluster of adjacent buildings and include the site reception, canteen, WCs, showers and changing rooms.

The pavilions are constructed from structural bamboo, a rapidly renewable and highly sustainable natural material applied in a new and innovative way. This creates the simplest form of open-plan space, with the minimum number of supporting columns, rather like a traditional garden structure. The appearance of the buildings and their cladding is partially transparent and is designed as required to suit the different environmental conditions within each space, so appearing as subtly different objects within the landscape.

Construction components are interchangeable and adjustable

They are constructed from repeatable modular construction components, capable of being prefabricated in controlled environments offsite, to maximise manufacturing quality and minimise construction time spent on site. In the longer term, construction components are interchangeable and adjustable.

Environmentally, the project aims to create a flexible and serviced environment with user wellbeing at its heart; a net-zero workplace that sets new standards for sustainability. a connection to nature with life-enhancing design at its heart.

This carbon negative approach is part of the active and passive energy capture system for the whole site: a landscaped ecosystem of measures that are integrated within the ‘bigger table’ congregational working hubs.

05 arcc concept section through the studio pavilion a “net zero” energy design concept 20190102 [web]

Concept section through the studio pavilion - a “net zero” energy design concept

Concept section through the studio pavilion - a “net zero” energy design concept

Project data

Location Great Abington, south Cambridgeshire
Type of project Research and development facilities for start-up companies
Client ARCC Innovations/Edward Atkin
Architect Robin Snell and Partners
Planning consultant Carter Jonas
Structural engineer Expedition Engineering
M&E consultant Atelier Ten
Quantity surveyor AECOM
Funding Private
Planning submission March 2019
Tender date Summer 2019
Start on site Autumn 2019
Gross internal floor area 1,625m²
Cost Confidential

11 arcc site photo, 2003 20190103 [web]

The existing site

The existing site

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Readers' comments (1)

  • About time that bamboo was grown on a commercial scale in Britain - perhaps it already is, or does the material have to be imported from somewhere far away?

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