• Architecture
  • Education

Harvey Court,
Cambridge

Info

Project Details:

The refurbishment and reworking of a beautiful Grade II* listed 20th Century, modernist college building in Cambridge for the demands of the twenty-first century student life.

Client: Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University

Construction Value: £7.5m

Completion: 2011

Location: Cambridge

Awards:

  • RIBA Awards 2012: Shortlisted
  • AJ Retrofit Awards 2012: Shortlisted
  • Europa Nostra Awards 2012: Shortlisted
  • David Unwin Awards 2011: Shortlisted

Images: Tim Crocker and Clive Smith

People

We added a new entrance in the north west corner, adjacent to a porter's lodge

The goal of the design was to enhance the student experience

The triumph of this project is its sensitivity: despite making a series of large interventions, you can barely see the join between the new and the original.

Matthew Goulcher, Managing Director

Harvey Court is a seminal, Grade II* listed collegiate building, part of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. It was completed in 1962 by Patrick Hodgkinson, working in the office of Sir Leslie Martin with Colin St John Wilson. We were initially brought in to help with a leaking roof, but our commission was soon extended to bring the building in line with modern students’ expectations through a comprehensive refurbishment.

Substantial upgrades were made to this split-level Common Room which now opens to landscaped gardens to the south

Accessibility and security improvements were prioritised

As well as repairing the building fabric and improving its performance, the project focused on enhancing the student experience: in its day to day use, socially, environmentally and in terms of accessibility and security. There was an opportunity to introduce en-suites bathrooms to every bedroom and upgrade outdated shared facilities, thereby making a real difference to students. Accessibility was another primary issue that needed to be addressed.

Student bedrooms were upgraded

Crucially, any interventions had to respect the building’s architectural significance and we worked closely with English Heritage to enable them to sign off the scheme. Ultimately, we needed to design these improvements and insertions in a bold but sensitive manner. It was Bursar Julia Collins who recognised the importance of putting students' needs first within the refurbishment – we needed to convert a building of its time into one that 21st century students expect, and would enjoy.

Design

Despite being a modernist building, the internal circulation of Harvey Court follows a classic Cambridge college courtyard pattern, though here it is organised at first floor level. This means that all of the bedrooms are accessed from the podium courtyard and gallery leading to dispersed stair cores serving the upper floors.

The first floor level podium courtyard provided both a design challenge and solution

All of the bedrooms are accessed from the courtyard and gallery

We radically rethought routes through the building and proposed a simple solution, concentrating all the accessible rooms on the first floor, and inserting a new lift (along with a grand staircase), that links the ground and first floors internally for the first time.

The placement of this new lift also offered an opportunity to re-orientate the building: the main entrance is now in a more intuitive and secure location, sharing a porter’s lodge with an adjacent building. This new entrance has been sensitively incorporated, employing many architectural details of the original building.

Original details have been carefully restored such as the Douglas fir cladding

Projects of this kind involving more or less invisible mending require far more architectural skill but get less applause than relatively thoughtless new builds. At Harvey Court, however, Levitt Bernstein’s respectful work certainly deserves its plaudits.

Peter Blundell Jones, Architecture Today, February 2012

The new common room space with rooflight above

The en-suite bathrooms have been ingeniously integrated by utilising unused storage and ancillary space where possible, or otherwise incorporating them into the existing bedroom floor plate. Through this process, the building’s listed status has been carefully managed by designating some bedrooms as ‘heritage’ rooms. These have been refurbished exactly as they were originally designed, giving us the freedom to modernise others in a more flexible way. At ground level, the common room and breakfast room have been refurbished, whilst the remodelling of utility spaces have provided a range of new or updated facilities.

Improvements have been made all while protecting the listed status of the building

Finally, the environmental performance of the building has also been vastly improved, with sustainable technology carefully integrated within the building: heat recovery, better insulation and 80sqm of solar panels have cut the building’s carbon emissions by 41kg per square metre per year.

Harvey Court illustrates our expertise in the field of reworking and restoring modernist architecture. The building has been seamlessly mended and updated, making a twentieth century icon accessible in the twenty-first.

Levitt Bernstein had to be bold when updating the fabric and function of the building, but sensitive to the underlying spatial and material principles that make it such a remarkable example of 20th century architecture.

Owen Pritchard, Blueprint Magazine, May 2012

Core team

Matthew Goulcher

Managing Director

Tom Greaves

Associate Director

Tony Hall

Technical Design Director

Andy Jobling

Technical Manager

Krishma Shah

Associate

Ioanna Karagiannakou

Architectural Designer