This project for Clare College was the subject of the most intense debate we have had within the office, when working on a competition proposal. The question was whether we should replicate the neighbouring Gilbert-Scott buildings or, instead, produce a modern, respectful and contextual design which picked up the form and massing of the existing buildings, without aping them.
We won the competition with the latter approach. We believe that new buildings can still respect their historic context, and a contemporary solution will always produce a more convincing design. We like to distinguish between what is new and what already exists.
The design reflects our sensitive use of a broad palette of materials, including brick, concrete, timber and folded brass alloy sheet, reflecting the materials of the surrounding buildings without copying them.
The winning proposal is as much about the plan as the design of the buildings, with the creation of a new quad, improved pedestrian access within the college and engagement with the adjoining public footpath across the Cambridge Backs.