Pre-design to design to completion at Clare College

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William Fawcett
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tel: 01223 460475


The Gillespie Centre is located next to Clare College's Memorial Court (left) and in the shadow of the University Library (background), both listed buildings of the 1930s by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.

The new Gillespie Centre at Clare College, Cambridge, has just been opened. It is the outcome of a process that started long before the builders began transforming the unpromising site – a former service yard at the back of the college.

CAR were appointed by Clare College in 2002, to provide pre-design services. This involved working with the college to define their accommodation priorities – a raked-floor lecture theatre, foyer/exhibition space, seminar rooms, fellows' and administrative offices, and undergraduate study-bedrooms. CAR also identified the constraints on a small site adjacent to listed buildings and landscapes; discussions about the principles of development took place with the conservation and landscape officers of Cambridge's planning department.

After a pause, the project came back to life in 2004. CAR finalised the brief and helped the College select a long list and shortlist of possible architects, and then organised a 'design concept' competition between three invited practices. Van Heyningen & Haward were selected by the College, and appointed as designers in mid-2005. This marked the conclusion of CAR's pre-design services.

Van Heyningen & Haward's design concept was developed, submitted for planning consent (no problems), and put out to tender. Construction started at the beginning of the summer vacation in 2007, and the completed building was occupied in early 2009.

The pre-design studies cost less than 0.25% of the building's cost, but established the framework within which the remaining 99.75% of the College's expenditure proceeded smoothly to a successful conclusion.

Clare College came back to CAR in 2008 for pre-design services for new graduate housing. Expect completion in 2012!

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