Christ’s College

  • Client: Christ’s College, Cambridge
  • Project: Squash court and fitness suite

When we were approached by Christ’s College Cambridge to report on the feasibility of refurbishing their iconic ‘Typewriter’ building they viewed it as a major maintenance headache. Sir Denys Lasdun’s ‘brutalist’ conception in ziggurat form had deteriorated badly since its construction in the mid1960s and the problems it presented to the college were legion. It was clear from the outset, however, that if these problems could be overcome the building could once again be the major asset to the college that it was at its inception.

The building was originally designed as 66 student bedrooms and 6 fellows’ apartments. There was also a small combined gymnasium and theatre, student and masters’ common rooms, squash courts and a laundry. Our brief reflected a major change in that the college wished to utilise the building as a conference facility during holiday times. This meant reconfiguration to provide en-suite toilet facilities for all of the bedrooms and provision of a high quality lecture theatre and refreshment accommodation.

The physical defects to be overcome included:

  • Concrete ‘cancer’
  • 167 rainwater leaks
  • Corroded mill finish aluminium single glazed windows
  • An inaccessible, corroded, uncharted labyrinth of broken heating pipes
  • Unsightly stained concrete façade elements
  • Poor quality, inefficient lighting

All of these issues were overcome: The concrete was repaired and sacrificial anodes inserted to prevent reoccurrence, roofs were waterproofed (and insulation added), slim-section coated metal double glazing was added and the bedroom heating converted to an electrical system.

The internal configuration of the building was redesigned to meet the challenging brief. The project took 15 months to complete and cost £6.5 million. The building is now offset beautifully by a new garden created to celebrate the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth, one of the college’s most famous alumni.

The project was part of a £6.54 million contract which was completed in October 2008.