51 Hills Road

The greenest office in Cambridge

Sitting on a main street which runs all the way through Cambridge, this small office building is a reaction to the area’s historical context.

Behind the site sits six model homes from the 1860s, opposite is the Great Eastern Hotel and the botanical gardens are nearby. The building is surrounded on two sides by listed buildings. The street facade relates in both scale and materials to the adjacent Claremont Terrace, and the scheme’s complex three dimensionality is designed to engage with these different surrounding buildings.

Despite being situated on a tight site, the project responds to its prominent position on the high street with generous threshold spaces, enclosed courtyards and setbacks. The tallest point acts as a marker as it is approached from the high street, and the chimneys – which enable naturally driven stack ventilation – give a presence on the street.

View of building frontage from across the road.
View of building frontage from across the road.

Due to the gap site’s historical context, we went through a complex planning process to develop the right proposal for this location. This included discussions with the neighbours and drawing what they would see of the building from their windows. The building’s form is highly sculptural and to design this we made many different models and very much thought of the design from the inside out.

The result is a BREEAM Excellent low-energy speculative office building which is designed to be flexible, allowing for different internal layouts and changes in tenants. Externally high-quality materials of brick and stone have been carefully detailed and the environmental elements are integrated into the architectural expression, while inside a limited palate of in-situ concrete and exposed timber offers a neutral but robust interior.

Close-up view of various brick details on the building's chimney flank wall.
Looking up at parapet corner details with crisp precast concrete elements.
Close-up view of various brick details on the building's chimney flank wall.
Various brick details on the building’s chimney flank wall, facing Claremont. © David Grandorge
Looking up at parapet corner details with crisp precast concrete elements.
Parapet corner details with crisp precast concrete elements. © David Grandorge
Rooftop view showing solar panels, rooflight and chimney abutting Highsett, with historic spires of Cambridge on the horizon.
View of building frontage nearing completion at dusk.
Rooftop view showing solar panels, rooflight and chimney abutting Highsett, with historic spires of Cambridge on the horizon.
Rooftop view showing solar panels, rooflight and chimney abutting Highsett, with historic spires of Cambridge on the horizon.
View of building frontage nearing completion at dusk.
View of building frontage nearing completion at dusk.

Further information

Data

Location
Cambridge
Project type
Workplace and learning
Budget
£2.3m
Status
Completed 2015
Floor area
780m2

Credits

Client
Jesus College, Cambridge
Gort Scott Team
Jay Gort, Fiona Scott, Susie Hyden, Gareth Puttock
Collaborators
Bidwells (project manager), Max Fordham (building services), Quantem (quantity surveyor), Ashe Construction (contractor), David Grandorge (photography)

Awards

Downloads and links

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