Technical Study: North West Cambridge housing by Stanton Williams

_Stanton Williams_NW Cambridge_080_(c)JackHobhouse

The architect’s first affordable housing creates a sense of intimacy while complying with tough daylight regulations, writes Elizabeth Hopkirk

Cambridge is a city characterised by two atmospheric forms of urban void: narrow lanes and college quads. Today, partly as a result of these attractive spaces, the city’s housing is in extraordinary demand – and it needs a lot more if prices aren’t to spiral out of control.

The irony, of course, is that it is nigh-on impossible to build the required new homes in 21st-century versions of those intimate streets. Modern daylight requirements mean buildings of four or five storeys must stand an unfriendly 18-20m from each other. It’s not easy to create a characterful place on those terms and, as a result, soulless avenues and windswept squares are a familiar experience in new developments all over Britain.

Even one of the country’s best projects – the North West Cambridge extension, whose masterplan by Aecom is a contender for this year’s Stirling Prize – has some monotonous wide avenues where kerbside nature strips aren’t enough to disguise the broad expanses of Tarmac.

It is this planning context that makes the intimate spaces which Stanton Williams has created on a 1.8ha plot at the heart of the development all the more remarkable.

This is premium content

Only logged in subscribers have access to it.

Login or Subscribe to view this story

Gated access promo

Existing subscriber? LOGIN or

Subscribe for unlimited access to:

  • Up to the minute architecture news from around the UK
  • Reviews of the latest buildings from all corners of the world
  • Our monthly digital edition including stunning photos, building and technical studies
  • Full access to all our online archives
  • PLUS you will receive a print copy of WA100 when it is published in December.

Subscribe before January 31st to pay our lowest rate.

Alternatively REGISTER for free access on selected stories and sign up for email alerts