Darwin College Study Centre, Cambridge

The site, a long narrow rectangle, lies between the curve of Silver Street and the Cam millpool.  On the street side, the building is low and appears to emerge from the existing curved boundary wall. On the riverside, there are two storeys of accommodation, and within this section computer rooms are placed at ground level along the river front. The interior of the building is like one large piece of furniture.  Structure, cladding, windows, floors, bookcases and furniture are all made of oak. The structure uses sections of a size that were only available ‘green’ (i.e. unseasoned). The timber was cut and dried for the project, but moisture contents remain in the range of 25 to 60%, and the structure will continue to dry for several years. The timber joints which transfer load use a system of stainless steel fixings to allow the joints to be tightened as the timber dries. The dominant aspect of the interior space comes from the geometry of the roof. The straight line in the plan generated by the waterside and echoed by the clerestory is set against the curved wall to Silver Street. The inside of the curved wall is lined with books, while the rafters forming the roof reconcile the straight line to the curve and generate a gentle three dimensional curved plane when seen in perspective. The main reading room is a space that extends from ground floor to first floor, and overlooks the river.