Illustrating the subtlety of interventions to the Western elevation of New Court

Trinity College — Cambridge

The Master and Fellows – Trinity College, Cambridge

New Court: Beacon / Max Fordham / Gleeds, Cambridge Architectural Research Wolfson Building: Cameron Taylor / Roger Parker Associates / Gleeds

The refurbishment of New Court represents the fourth in a series of projects for Trinity College, Cambridge. This continued working relationship encompasses a range of scales and concerns, from strategic design and College estate studies, to carefully made contemporary interventions within existing buildings. All of these projects use incisive analysis and innovative design to reconcile the needs of the client and end user, with the demands made by high benchmarks for quality and heritage significance.


1. Site-wide maintenance strategy: 2003
Audit and planning of maintenance facilities to rationalise accommodation and practices, improving efficiency and liberating, for other college uses, valuable accommodation at the heart of the College.

2. Fellows’ Parlour: 2004
Expansion of the historic Parlour, with a contemporary space built against the exposed, listed walls of Nevile’s Court.

3. Wolfson Building: 2006
Refurbishment of an existing, curtilage-listed building, with new service installations and renewable generation. Formation of new social and teaching spaces as a contrast to the minimal provision of the 60’s original.

4. New Court: 2016
New Court is a Grade I listed building, completed by William Wilkins in 1825. The proposals described below – for the comprehensive refurbishment and remodelling of the existing buildings – received Listed Buildings Consent in 2013, and have recently been completed.

The two glass ‘hanging rooms’ were constructed as crystalline interventions in the host building

The ‘hanging rooms’ with their reflective surfaces and black glass soffits, bring natural light and reflections into the heart of what was formerly a dark circulation core

The rooms provide new unique teaching and conference spaces for the college

The bare iron balustrading has been fitted with a new oak capping, 3D-CNC routed to exactly match the profile and wreaths of the original

Existing kitchens were refitted and partially glazed to become part of the social life of collegiate life

The photovoltaic cells on the roof help to power the newly-installed heat-recovery ventilation system

New Court Renovation

This project provided 169 highly sustainable student rooms within a Grade I Listed building, and set a benchmark for the reconciliation of the otherwise apparently conflicting ambitions of sustainability and heritage.

Located at the heart of Trinity College – between The Backs, the Wren Library and Great Court – New Court houses a large proportion of the College’s second and third year undergraduates – as well as graduates and Fellows, and a number of teaching rooms and offices.

Trinity College, an institution with an almost uniquely long-term outlook, viewed the sustainable refurbishment of New Court both pragmatically – as a way of providing critical upgrades to the facilities and comfort offered by the building – and, more broadly, as a means of developing a sustainable approach to the retrofit of its historic estate. The project explored the changing territory of heritage policy in relation to the climate change agenda and made a significant contribution to the knowledge base and understanding that underpins this ongoing debate.

Trinity’s plans are just the kind of radical and inventive ideas worthy of the great thinkers Cambridge has produced.

Sarah Lonsdale, The Sunday Telegraph

1. Character and Comfort
The proposals provided 169 student study bedrooms with appropriate shared and ensuite facilities, as well as accessible suites, Fellows’ teaching sets, and tutorial offices. All existing service installations were replaced with new heating, hot and cold water, power, lighting, data pipes and cables within fully-accessible distribution routes.

2. Sustainability: Fabric and systems
The integrated package of works reduced the energy consumption and carbon emissions by 75% and 88% respectively. These ground-breaking proposals were based on extensive building-physics studies and detailed 3D modelling, carried out to demonstrate that there will be no harmful impact on either the fabric or character of the historic building.

3. Facade: Renewal of fabric
Reinstatement of the original material, hue and texture of the render facing has restored some of the historic character of this court, undermined by successive historical interventions, most notably those of the 1970’s.

Repairing the roman cement facades of the courtyard

The original windows, upgraded and double-glazed, sit within the insulated wall and re-instated shutter box reveal

The completed interiors, each responding to the particularities of the individual original space 4.

The bare iron balustrading has been fitted with a new oak capping, 3D-CNC routed to exactly match the profile and wreaths of the original

The interiors deliver a level of calm and simplicity that responds to the original character of the space. 1:1 mock ups of the rooms were created to investigate the design and detailing of the linings, whilst providing a tool for discussion with the colleges staff

Plan of the reconfigured ground level to provide accessible rooms

Models were extensively used to test the relationships and integration of linings and furniture into the listed rooms


  • 2008 / David Urwin Award / Winner
  • 2016 / Conservation, Alteration or Extension to an Existing Building; Cambridge Design and Construction Awards / Winner
  • 2016 / Sustainability; Cambridge Design and Construction Awards / Commendation
  • 2016 / AJ Retrofit Award / Shortlisted
  • 2016 / Civic Trust Awards / Regional Finalist


Photography by Timothy Soar / David Stewart


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