Back to the 2024 Shortlist Small Housing Development

St Catherine’s College

Sponsored by
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St Catherines CVA 2 Houses View 5a


Location: Cambridge

Brick Manufacturer: Ibstock PLC

Brick Name: RETRO Tiffany

Architect: Cottrell and Vermeulen Architecture

Brickwork Contractor: Evans & Co Building Ltd

About the project

The new student accommodation for St Catharine’s Colleges provides, 23 student rooms with associated kitchens and shared facilities across two new buildings that sit in the ‘foreground’ space of the grounds of Old House (a listed building designed by Basil Champneys), against the background of larger 1970s buildings.

The new buildings continue the organising principle of clustered rooms, established in the larger 70’s structure, while the character of the new buildings is drawn primarily from Old House and influenced by the work and ideas of its architect, Basil Champneys.

The form of the two houses employs a balance of symmetry and asymmetry evident in Champneys’ work in Cambridge. The arrangement of the facades also shifts from formal to informal arrangements of windows, influenced by the entrance and garden facades of Old House. Architectural features and materials are taken and re-interpreted from Old House to continue a dialogue between the buildings.

In order to reduce their carbon impact, the new buildings are constructed using CLT panels as the primary structure. The CLT is left exposed where possible and treated with low VOC coatings to protect from wear. This approach minimises additional material finishes which would otherwise increase the embodied carbon of the buildings.

The CLT is clad with a brick outer leaf of Retro Tiffany; a variegated soft yellow, pink, and blue brick with handmade tiled roofs. The materials directly respond to the character area of Grange Road. A light brick mortar is used to provide contrast to the elevation and highlight the Flemish bond brickwork. At the base of the building a darker red mortar is used to create a subtle change of emphasis to the brick work as it meets the ground.

The new buildings reference and reinterpret detail and moments of interest and pattern as found in the adjacent Old House and Champneys’ wider works: arched openings, decorative pre-cast lintels and moments of pattern to brickwork and roof tiles.

The windows vary to both create moments of flatness and depth to the elevation, and to create window seats and deep sills to internal spaces.

Rainwater pipes and gutters are external and become a feature of the elevation, as with Old House.

The architect, contractor and subcontractor worked closely together on site to resolve, adapt, and improvise details on the varied and complex elevations. The brick was selected to provide variation in texture and colour for its garden setting, whilst the tumbled surfaces of the brickwork required careful and skilled craftsmanship accommodating arch forms, precast elements, and different mortar colours.

Sponsored by ARC Building Solutions

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ARC Building Solutions is a specialist manufacturer of cavity fire barriers and cavity closers, based in Leeds, West Yorkshire. Established in 2008, ARC specialises in bringing unique and innovative products to market. Designed to solve real world on-site challenges, ARC’s products help to deliver safer and more sustainable homes and buildings. ARC’s wealth of technical experience ensures that the best solution can be identified from our comprehensive range of products.

ARC Building Solutions