In 2014 Walters & Cohen won an architectural competition to design new accommodation for Newnham College, one of the 31 colleges of the University of Cambridge. Newnham is unique in that all its students and fellowship are women. Dame Carol Black, Principal of Newnham, said: ‘We were looking for a practice which would design a wonderful and uplifting piece of architecture that will add to the glorious setting that is Newnham College. The standard of the competition was remarkably high but the final decision was unanimous and we were delighted to name Walters & Cohen Architects as the winner.’
The original brief was to design a new 75-bedroom residence on the tennis courts, however, following the feasibility study we are now building 90 new bedrooms and ancillary accommodation on Sidgwick Avenue and refurbishing a further 19 bedrooms in the existing Fawcett Building to support the College’s growth.
When undertaking the masterplan it became clear that the '60s Strachey Building, located between the beautiful buildings by Basil Champneys and Allies and Morrison's Rosalind Franklin Building, no longer provided fit-for-purpose student accommodation. Its demolition allows for a new building that makes good use of the footprint, conforming to the linear arrangement of the adjoining Champneys’ buildings to provide high quality en suite student accommodation on the upper floors and a new Porters’ Lodge, conference facilities, café, and a suite of offices and supervision rooms at ground floor level. Coupled with substantial associated landscape works integral to the building’s design, the new building is a contemporary addition that will provide a dynamic new frontage for Newnham College along Sidgwick Avenue yet does not impose on the historic buildings and gardens, and leaves the tennis courts intact.
Newnham places great emphasis on the ability to work collaboratively. Initially we got to know our client well, spent time observing movement around the College and together we visited other colleges to research comparable facilities. Meetings are held regularly with the Building Steering Group (BSG), while open house meetings and student surveys have provided useful and surprising results, much to the benefit of the design.