The purpose of the building is to provide facilities for post-graduate students to study. We were interested in what would make a good working atmosphere. The building is designed to offer a choice of study environments: overlooking the River Cam, sitting outside on the balcony or steps, looking towards Silver Street, sitting around a large table, choosing to be isolated under the lantern, relaxing on a sofa, or working with computers in the computer rooms.

The site, a long narrow rectangle, lies between the curve of Silver Street and the Cam milipool. The College itself is linear in plan. Over time existing buildings were joined together by new connecting buildings. The site is therefore the linear end of a linear plan.

On the street side the building is low and appears to emerge from the existing curved boundary wall. On the river side there are two storeys of accommodation and within this section computer rooms are placed at ground floor level along the riverfront. The main reading room is a space that extends from ground floor to first floor and overlooks the water. This gives the opportunity to provide a variety of study spaces.

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 timber has different characteristics varying from the dramatic texture of shakes and splits in the structure to the refinement of veneers in the furniture.

The dominant aspect of the interior space comes from the geometry of the roof. The straight line in plan generated by the waterside and echoed by the clerestorey is set against the curved wall to Silver Street. The inside of the curved wall is lined with books and 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 building is made of brickwork and English oak. Soft lime mortar is used to avoid movement joints. The oak structure uses sections of a size that were only available 'green' or unseasoned. The timber was cut and dried for the project but moisture contents remain in the range of 25-60% and the structure will continue to dry for several years. The timber joints which transfer load by bearing between surfaces uses a system of stainless steel mechanical fixings to allow the joints to be tightened as the timber dries. The oak rafters which form the surface . act compositely with a double skin of plywood deck and provides lateral stability. The ground floor is natural stone and the roofs are natural slate and lead.

At the head of the plan are a seminar room, a small fiat and a timber lantern. To avoid opening windows on the street side, the lantern opens and closes automatically providing cross ventilation to the reading areas.

Limited competition - commissioned June 1989
Building contract - January 1993-March 1994