Jesus College

Niall McLaughlin Architects, Cambridge, 2017


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Both façades use oak glulam 

Nick Kane     Download Original

  • Both façades use oak glulam    
  • Rather than a simple reclad, elements of the original façades have been kept visible in the thin vertical piers of brick and stone cappings that rise up through the building’s four storeys    
  • View from the Cambridge skyline    
  • The tower is a wholly timber frame    
  • The West Court project presented a wonderful opportunity to incorporate old buildings into a new heart for the college    
  • The tranquil courtyard    
  • Interior view of the brickwork    
  • The acoustic ceiling allows for quiet conversations    
  • The cafe    
  • Seating can be arranged in the round or lecture-style    
  • Corridors run the length of the courtyard side    
  • Floor plans    
  • 3D section through lantern    
  • Section AA    
  • Section BB    
  • Facade detail    
  • Lantern detail    

The first phase of a three-phase development for a Cambridge college gives coherence to its disparate elements.

The West Court project presented an opportunity to incorporate old buildings into a new heart for the college within its historic footprint. It was delivered in sequential parts over 18 months, with the refurbishment of the Grade II-listed building completed first, followed by the new café pavilion and basement bar, and finally the remodelled 1970s Rank Building and a new entrance building.

As stipulated by the planners, the café stands distinct from the old building as a pavilion, separated by a corridor of glass, thus maintaining the integrity of the old façade. There are a number of clever touches: the timber columns thicken out in the centre to express the natural stress on the structure; the acoustic ceiling allows for quiet conversations; and the barrel-vaulted ceiling of the cellar bar, which opens out on to a sunken courtyard facing away from the part of the Webb buildings still occupied by the (teetotal) Wesleyan community.

The café is one component of a three-phase project, with the current first phase also comprising common rooms, teaching and study spaces, a lecture hall, and 24 hotel-standard rooms plus three serviced apartments for visiting scholars. Later phases will yield a performing arts venue, gallery and archive.

Designs had to respond to the variety of building stock and site conditions, and the wide range of construction types from renovation to new-build. In terms of detailing, there was limited opportunity for repetition. Instead the various elements were unified through a consistent palette of high-quality traditional materials including oak, stone, brick and quarry tiles. Untreated oak glulam framing around glazing was given a chamfered profile to echo the existing stone window surrounds.


  • Begun: Feb 2015
  • Completed: Apr 2017
  • Floor area: 4,140m2
  • Sector: Education
  • Total cost: £12.5M
  • Procurement: JCT Design and Build 2011 with amendments
  • Address: Jesus Lane, Cambridge, CB5 8BL, United Kingdom

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