University buildings named best new buildings at the Cambridge Design and Construction Awards

Noella Chye 25 March 2017

The Cambridge Design and Construction Awards were held on 21st March at St. Catharines’ College. University buildings were victorious in two out of the three main categories, and were commended in others. 

Cowan Court at Churchill College, an accommodation block for 68 students completed in the summer of 2016, won the award for Best Large New Building. Named in honour of alumnus and Benefactor Fellow, Michael Cowan, and designed by London-based architecture firm 6a, a bird’s-eye view of the building shows that it is a perfect, rigid square, with a smaller square cut out of its middle. Most strikingly, its external surface is made of the wooden floorboards of a French train, in keeping with some of the other unusual buildings in the college. It features all en-suite bathrooms and large windows characteristic of the the original College court architecture. 

The newly-titled David Attenborough Building, located on the New Museums Site, in which the Department of Zoology and Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI) campus is based, won two major awards: The Engineering & Sustainability Project of the Year Award, which recognised and rewarded the building’s environmental assessment method in keeping with the sustainability project it houses, and The Best Conservation Alteration or Extension Award for the unique addition it made to the Cambridge cityscape. CCI is a centre for the study of biodiversity, and is thus aptly named after the Planet Earth presenter. Inside the building, green walls of dense leaves tower above, leading to a green roof with photovoltaic cells used by the CCI as a laboratory to monitor different species colonising the building. Overall, energy efficiency measures have achieved a 40% reduction in operational carbon, £200K annual energy savings, and an 82% reduction in embodied carbon, Landscape Institute reports. The building also houses various biodiversity measures, including a bee hotel and rainwater harvesting.

The Potting Shed located in the Fellows’ Garden at Jesus College, by PiP/DPA Architects, has a rather literal design for its function. The building is shaped like a larger-than-life plant pot, and was commended in the Best Small New Building category, but ultimately lost to a non-university building. Nelson Court on Trafalgar Road, a non-university building designed by Cambridge-based architecture firm Studio 24, is a city housing development which boasts a series of striking internal features, such as a communal plant to generate hot water and heating, which is individually controlled by each dwelling, Cambridge News reports.