Jesus College, Cambridge

Key facts

Jesus College, Cambridge

Located in the centre of Cambridge, the West Court site was in need of substantial refurbishment to meet the needs of Jesus College, who wanted to develop the existing buildings into improved conference facilities and a new research centre.

PBA worked closely with Niall McLaughlin Architects on this impressively complex £12m project, including a new pavilion café with a basement bar and the refurbishment of both a 1920s Grade II listed building and a 1970s concrete-framed building which closes the south side of the original court.

One of the biggest challenges on the project included forming a basement only two metres away from the listed building, in tricky geological conditions with a relatively high water table. This was made more complex as the lightweight timber pavilion on top is not heavy enough to stop the whole structure from floating.

The cramped 1970s building structure was heavily remodelled to squeeze in a high-specification lecture theatre as well as creating new two-storey light wells to bring daylight into the conference accommodation.

The architect used glulam oak throughout the project to unify the different parts of the development, all with expressed form and hidden fixings.  Our creativity in quickly producing concepts for connections and slender structural forms, including prototyping a key connection detail using 3D printing, allowed us to inform the architectural design in real-time.

The Bursar of Jesus College expressed a view that these buildings should still be around in 200 years; the sort of longevity that can only be achieved if every aspect of the project is excellent.  We’re confident that this development will stand the test of time.