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Architecture — Urban design — Infrastructure — Landscape —
Architecture — Urban design — Infrastructure — Landscape —
Architecture — Urban design — Infrastructure — Landscape —
Architecture — Urban design — Infrastructure — Landscape —
Architecture — Urban design — Infrastructure — Landscape —
Architecture — Urban design — Infrastructure — Landscape —
Architecture — Urban design — Infrastructure — Landscape —
Architecture — Urban design — Infrastructure — Landscape —
Architecture — Urban design — Infrastructure — Landscape —
Architecture — Urban design — Infrastructure — Landscape —

Wolfson Flats, Churchill College— Cambridge

Client(s)

Churchill College, Cambridge

Collaborator(s)

Scott Wilson / Roger Parker Associates / Gleeds

The Wolfson Building was designed by David Roberts in 1967 as an addition to the main Churchill College campus, and forms 40 flats providing self-contained family accommodation for graduate students. This project formed a major revisiting of the building as the centrepiece of a new graduate campus – a comprehensive re-modelling of the block to address failings in the building fabric and to deliver on contemporary expectations of light and space.

The project sought to introduce a new spatial generosity to the flats – ex­tending the available space while breaking down some of the cellular divisions – and to improve the energy efficiency and comfort. A full re-engineering of the building’s thermal envelope – through the addition of highly insulated extensions, new facade linings and an upgraded roof – provided the platform for a low energy services installation. Each unit is serviced by the combination of a new whole house MVHR system, electric under-floor heat­ing, and a new shared hot water distribution system, with central plant supported by a roof mounted solar thermal array.

The building process grew from the creation of a prototype flat, used to test the approach and discuss the potential of the project with the college. The main project was undertaken in a series of phases and was completed in 2010.

The Wolfson Flats form the centrepiece of a new graduate campus
View from a window of the second floor flat – showing deep plywood clad internal window cills, accommodating internal wall insulation, and storage below – towards the courtyard being used for laundry and a play area
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Judges citation

It would have been tempting to have demolished this mix of maisonettes and flats, built in the late 1960s under tight financial constraints, and designed in brutalist brick and concrete. Were they worth saving? The architects thought so, not least because of the embodied energy, and they took the opportunity to modify and extend the 40 homes with a holistic design approach which delivered huge increases in amenity and comfort. Energy in use has been cut by 15 per cent for the maisonettes and 40 per cent in the flats. A solar system provides more than 40 per cent of hot water used. Carbon emissions have reduced considerably, thanks to external insulated cladding, new central heating, and upgraded glazing and sound insulation. The college now has units of which it is proud, rather than embarrassed.

40 self-contained flats provide accommodation for graduate students and their families
Isonometric drawing of the flats, illustrating the key insertions to staircases and communal room, including a new window to the common room, opening up the staircase to the South, and a new more open and generous staircase to the North
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LONDON Unit 14 21 Wren Street London WC1X 0HF t +44 (0)20 7837 7221 View on Google Maps

CAMBRIDGE Darkroom Gwydir Street Cambridge CB1 2LJ t +44 (0)1223 516009 View on Google Maps

OXFORD 2 King Edward Street Oxford OX1 4HS t +44 (0)1865 684004 View on Google Maps

studio@5thstudio.co.uk

We are keen to receive CVs and short portfolios from Part 1 and Part 2 designers. Please contact us via recruitment@5thstudio.co.uk

We actively encourage qualified applicants from underrepresented backgrounds to apply.