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St Catharine’s College contest shortlist revealed

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The AJ can reveal the six practices competing to remodel the main hall and create a new home for rare books at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge

Sergison Bates, Wright & Wright and MICA Architects are joined by Berman Guedes Stretton, Gort Scott and the RH Partnership in an invited contest organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC).

In 2016 Gort Scott won another MRC-run competition for a new riverside block at St Hilda’s College at Oxford University while RH Partnership has already worked at the college on the award-winning McGrath Centre extension, which completed in 2013.

The project focuses on overhaulling the ‘key formal and informal social spaces, including the hall and other dining areas’ as well as improving access to the 18th-century Sherlock Library, senior combination room and the McGrath Centre.

As well as transforming service and support areas, the winning architect-led multidisciplinary team will draw up plans for a new home for the college’s rare books and special collections.

Founded in 1473, St Catharine’s College is one of the oldest members of the University of Cambridge and sits in Trumpington Street in Cambridge city centre.

The college is famous for its Grade I-listed, three-sided 17th-century open court designed by Robert Grumbold, an associate of Christopher Wren. Its alumni include Jeremy Paxman, actors Rebecca Hall, Ian McKellen and Richard Ayoade and Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first prime minister of Malaysia.

Shortlist in full 

  • BGS Architects
  • Gort Scott Architects
  • MICA Architects
  • RH Partnership Architects
  • Sergison Bates Architects
  • Wright & Wright Architects

Master at St Catharine’s College, Mark Welland, said: ‘[Through] this project [we are] seeking to solve a number of technical and practical issues. Both set-piece and supporting spaces need a holistic design vision – for they are at the heart of the college experience.

‘We were delighted with the great care, thoughtfulness and creativity in every response, and are extremely grateful for their time and efforts’.

03 main court

03 main court

MRC chair Malcolm Reading said the six finalists had shown an ‘understanding of the college and its requirements for this project, most crucially, balancing the creative with the practical throughout their responses’.

He added: ’‘St Catharine’s has a tightly constrained site that has absorbed a succession of architectural styles as the college has grown and flourished over the past 300 years.

‘For this significant project, the college is looking to identify a multidisciplinary team who can deliver a world-class series of spaces while resolving significant technical challenges.’

Practices were initially asked to introduce their teams, highlight relevant experience and provide initial thoughts on the project.

At the second stage, the finalists will devise ‘concept designs that look to resolve the technical and operational challenges of the site, provide spectacular interiors for the key spaces and address environmental performance, holistic sustainability and heritage significance’.

Each team will receive an honorarium of £15,000 for their work. A winner is expected to be announced early this summer.

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