Newnham College, established in 1871, is one of the 31 colleges of the University of Cambridge. It is unique in that its students and fellowship are all women.
In 2014 Newnham launched a competition to find an architect to design a new 75-bedroom residence for its growing graduate community. The College is set in exceptionally beautiful gardens and framed by distinguished buildings by Basil Champneys, thus a design was sought that would be ‘restorative, inspirational, spacious, elegant and sophisticated’ as well as highly energy efficient.
We were delighted to win the project. Alongside the brief for this new accommodation the College planned two other, ostensibly unrelated, phases of work; it quickly became clear that considering the three as part of a wider framework would be beneficial to the College’s overall strategy and provide logical clarity, a more efficient programme, and better value for money.
A College-wide space audit and indicative masterplan of all property assets and existing buildings, servicing arrangements and parking for cars and cycles were developed alongside emerging design proposals to enable the rigorous testing of the site against analysis of the College’s existing provision and future ambitions. This process ensured that the long-term needs of the College were met with an exciting new environment that is sensitively integrated with the existing historic buildings and gardens, while also reflective of the aspirations of the College.
As a result, the building project grew to incorporate conference facilities, social spaces and a new Porters’ Lodge to create a vibrant community and better first impression of the College. The masterplan identified that all the new accommodation needs could be met in one building that knits in coherently with the Champneys buildings along Sidgwick Avenue, and therefore allows the lawns and gardens to remain unspoilt.