Darwin College Housing, Cambridge

The site for these 28 student rooms has two opposing characteristics. The approach, from Wordsworth Grove to the north, is via a cul de sac of mixed residential buildings while to the south are the playing fields of Summerfield. From Wordsworth Grove it is seen as a large semi-detached house, consistent with the Edwardian semi-detached houses, with two entrance courts set behind a  2.5 metre high garden wall. Facing Summerfield, the building transforms into the image of a single villa set in its own arcadian landscape, with its terrace, balcony and loggia forming a grandstand to the sporting life beyond. This elevation is topped by two steel-framed lanterns to the staircases. At night the illuminated lanterns act as beacons in the landscape.

The plan is a simple arrangement of two four-storey houses sharing a party wall, with two flats and one maisonette to each.  Both houses have their own ‘front’ staircase accessed from an entrance court and a third common ‘back’ stair linking all the kitchens to the shared south-facing courtyard.  Two further connections give unity to the whole.  At the fourth floor the two houses combine to share the loggia overlooking Summerfield and at basement level the entrance stairs are connected by a crypto-porticus to share the laundry and trunk store.

The relationship between the form of the building and its sub-division has resulted in much variety in the orientation of the study-bedrooms.  In the attic these include crow’s nest rooms, double-height and panoramic rooms under the long inclined roof, and introspective rooms overlooking private gardens to the side.  The stepped plan avoids overlooking neighbouring properties and gives the majority of the study-bedrooms a south orientation and view of Summerfield.