North West Cambridge

Proposals for the first phase of residential development the University of Cambridge urban extension

Key Facts

  • Location: Cambridge
  • Client: Human Nature with Development Securities for the University of Cambridge
  • Collaborators: FCBStudios, MOLE, 5thStudio, Schulze+Grassov, AKT11, Atelier10, RGCarter, The Future Customer, Savills, Aecom
  • Status: fully-costed and appraised plan with construction strategy
  • Size: 250 homes, restaurant, community facility, studios and exhibition spaces  


A competition, by invitation, with partners, Development Securities (now U+I), 

to be the developer for the first phase of the prestigious NWCambridge urban extension. Code Level 5 of Sustainable Homes – informed by our engineers Atelier 10 – and designed together with 3 architects with strong Cambridge roots – including FeildenCleggBradley Studios (Sterling Prize winners for Accordia) –  the scheme sought to create a distinctive and characterful place that felt like Cambridge but with a Scandinavian sensibility with courtyard blocks, bike culture and productive urban landscape.  

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Project Principles 

Variety within a code: studies of Cambridge patterns, colours and textures informed the aesthetic which strived to be modern and fresh. The orthogonal framework plan was inherited from Aecom. The three architectural practices delivered a design that while cohesive nevertheless benefited from a good deal of diversity and personality. 

Courtyard Blocks: Scandinavian-style courtyard blocks were a mainstay of the plan. The homes enjoyed small private back gardens that led onto a shared garden space with play areas, BBQ pits, community orchard and greenhouse. 

Code Level 5: the highest but one level in the former Code for Sustainable Homes. A demanding brief but achieved here with the help of outstanding environmental engineers, Atelier 10. 

Potato rows: the Scandinavian influence extended to the straight stealing of street proportions form the famous Potato Row housing in Copenhagen. These beautiful streets encourage safe play, interaction between families in the homes and generally pleasing dimensions.

Deep Collaboration: the first time we used deep collaboration on a development project. Progress was initially slow as all architects, urban designers, public realm and landscape specialists experimented with different layouts, block form, street types and massing and we refereed the ensuing melee. And then it came together really rapidly. Our engineers and construction partners were involved throughout this exercise meaning that the architecture was designed for deliverability within a robust financial envelope and phasing plan.  

Pricing: sometimes you have to buy a project. We didn’t, and on this occasion lost to another developer.