For this year’s study trip, the WR-AP team embarked on a day trip to Cambridge. We set out to visit contemporary interventions in and around the city, paying close attention to materiality, sustainability, building presence and the public realm. With close links to London, it is inevitable that the demand for living in Cambridge is growing, and we were intrigued to explore the contemporary development of Cambridge as a place to live.
It is well known that Cambridge and bicycles go hand-in-hand, so with this in mind, we hired electric bikes for the day. This allowed us to experience the city from the ground it is built upon whilst enjoying a new experience at the same time.
Our first stop was Accordia; a residential district on the periphery of Cambridge, built in three phases from 2003 to 2006. Accordia encapsulates a series of high-quality construction techniques, as well as providing safe and comfortable places for play, proving as a fine example of modern British urban design.
With the aid of a ‘sports mode’ cycle setting, we journeyed into the city center, stopping via some modern examples showcasing civic presence; including the new Judge Business School designed by Stanton Williams (2018) and Jesus College designed by Naill Mclaughlin (2017). The scales of both schemes mediate between city and person through the clear reoccurring use of pale Cambridge brick.
All of a sudden, we found ourselves immersed in the world of John Outram’s original Judge Business School; a postmodern beauty! One look upwards at the ceiling had us excited. Our tour-guide, the caretaker; showed us around the playful madness, it was interesting to hear which of the Judge Business School’s he preferred…
Our next stop: Eddington; a new living district located northwest of Cambridge. The University of Cambridge produced a masterplan for the development of over 3,000 homes, accompanied by new schools, shops and parks. Attention to detail and a frequent appreciation of material craft and articulation, forms a conversation across multiple buildings, thus generating a sense of place. This platform for a large new community celebrates renewable, low carbon energy systems, sociable public spaces and generous sized cycle lanes, a catalyst for an ever-searching utopia?
We found joy in spotting the scattered utility buildings by Robin Lee Architecture through their distinct reoccurring material palette from one to the other; finding yourself forming memories of a brand-new place you have only just arrived into.
The success of Eddington as a suburb/place will become clear over time, as people begin to form a community through inhabitation. The repetitive use of the light-shaded Cambridge brick resonates collectively across the modern and the historic, unifying the city and its suburbs through scale, time and place. At WR-AP we support the notion of crafting a place, through materiality and expression to build upon great architecture.
We finished the studio day out with a team meal, enabling us to reflect upon the visits mentioned, prompting discussions here at WR-AP regarding placemaking through architectural intervention. Undertaking research trips allows the architect to observe, and perhaps build responses upon these observations…
Blog and images by Oli Reynolds - WR-AP