The refurbishment and reworking of a Brutalist modernist college for the demands of the 21st century.
Harvey Court is a seminal Grade II* listed building within Cambridge’s Gonville and Caius College, completed in 1962 by Patrick Hodgkinson. We were initially asked to help with a leaky roof, but our commission was soon extended to comprehensively refurbish the building and bring it into line with modern students’ expectations.
As well as repairing and improving the building fabric’s performance, where we took a bold but sensitive approach to account for its architectural significance, we focused on enhancing the student experience: in its day to day use, socially, environmentally and in terms of accessibility and security. One of Harvey Court’s fellows is Professor Stephen Hawking, and the college places a high emphasis on attracting talented students, whatever their physical abilities. Bursar Julia Collins also recognised the importance of putting students first – we needed to convert a building of its time into one that students expect and enjoy, both now and in the future.
Despite being a modernist building, the internal circulation followed a classic Cambridge college courtyard pattern, albeit at first floor level. This means that bedrooms are accessed from the podium courtyard and gallery, leading to dispersed stair cores serving the upper floors. To address this, and the key issue of disabled access, we concentrated all accessible rooms on the first floor and inserted 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 radically re-orientate the building: the main entrance is now in a more intuitive and secure location. This has been sensitively incorporated, mimicking the architectural detailing of the original building.
The en-suite bathrooms have been ingeniously integrated, often by utilising unused storage and ancillary space. Through this process, the building’s listed status has been carefully managed by designating some bedrooms as ‘heritage’ rooms. These have been restored 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 also been refurbished, whilst the remodelling of utility spaces has provided a range of new or updated facilities.
Finally, environmental performance has been vastly improved, with sustainable technology carefully sited across the building: heat recovery, better insulation and 80sqm of solar panels have cut the carbon emissions by 41kg per square metre.