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Dining Hall, Homerton College, Cambridge

Words:
Regional Awards Jury

Feilden Fowles’ light and open dining hall reflects the egalitarian, diverse character that Homerton College aims for, and with its sculptural form wins a 2024 RIBA East Award

Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: David Grandorge
Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: David Grandorge

2024 RIBA East Award

Dining Hall, Homerton College, Cambridge
Feilden Fowles Architects for Homerton College, University of Cambridge
Contract value: £10.4m
GIA: 1665m2
Cost per m2: £6,246

Homerton College was incorporated into the University of Cambridge only relatively recently – in 2010 – but has a legacy of 250 years of educational achievement and a progressive character that reflects its dissenting origins. What architect Feilden Fowles has captured so well in its new Dining Hall is a compelling vision of what the new college could be, speaking to the past, present, and future of this unusual institution. While drawing inspiration from the materials and details of the college’s early 20th century Arts and Crafts buildings, the Dining Hall subverts the character of traditional collegiate spaces. Open to the landscape rather than enclosed, light-filled rather than dark, it is suggestive of the egalitarian, diverse community the college seeks to build, and has become the focal point in the college’s social and cultural life. Externally, its highly distinctive, sculptural form has succeeded in providing the ‘emblematic centrepiece’ the college sought as a symbol of its free-thinking character and bold social ambitions.

  • Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: Jim Stephenson
    Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: Jim Stephenson
  • Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: Jim Stephenson
    Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: Jim Stephenson
  • Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: Jim Stephenson
    Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: Jim Stephenson
  • Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: Jim Stephenson
    Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: Jim Stephenson
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At ground level the two-storey building contains the new dining hall, kitchen areas, servery, and a ‘buttery’ café together with informal study space. The latter, which was introduced to the brief by the architect, has proved especially important to the college, reflecting the evolving needs of the student population. Study and meeting spaces extend to the upper floor. The new buildings have an entrance for college members from the college grounds, but also a separately accessed reception area for public events and conference use.

The project takes a holistic approach to sustainability based on a bespoke strategy. It is predominantly passively ventilated but makes use of mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) which uses waste heat from cooking extraction to temper incoming air. A ground-source heat pump has been sized to provide future energy for the building and throughout the wider campus.

Approached across the college lawn, the Dining Hall has an enigmatic presence. A pigmented board-marked concrete plinth creates a visual connection to the solid brickwork of the adjacent buildings. Above, the complex, highly crafted faience facades appear to shift, dissolve and solidify in changing light conditions. The design and construction of these facades is an architectural tour-de-force.

  • Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: Jim Stephenson
    Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: Jim Stephenson
  • Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: David Johnson
    Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: David Johnson
  • Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: David Grandorge
    Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: David Grandorge
  • Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: David Grandorge
    Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: David Grandorge
  • Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: David Grandorge
    Dining Hall, Homerton College. Credit: David Grandorge
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Internally, the Dining Hall is characterised by its expressive glulam (glue-laminated timber) frame fabricated from coppiced sweet chestnut. The rigour with which the tectonics of construction have been considered is exemplified in the traditional jointing and all-timber fixings used to assemble the frame, in lieu of more conventional steel flitch-plates and bolts. High-level clerestory windows create bands of light and shadow across distinctive chamfered timber panels – a motif drawn from the neighbouring Arts and Crafts building by HG Ibberson, erected in 1914. Overall, the visual warmth created by the timber, and the sense of openness, light, and access to the landscape, are emblematic of the college’s character and its focus on the wellbeing of all its members. This is a space that has clearly been transformative, bringing the community together and hosting the events, conversations, and exchange of ideas which underpin its intellectual life. It illustrates the power of architecture to support and enable the communities it serves.

See the rest of the RIBA East winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here.

To see the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com.

RIBA Regional Awards 2024 sponsored by EH Smith and Autodesk

Credits

Contractor Barnes Construction
Structural engineer Structure Workshop
M&E engineer Max Fordham
Cost consultant Bremner Partnership
Landscape architects SEED, Hortus Collective
Acoustic engineer Max Fordham
Sustainability Max Fordham
Project manager Ingleton Wood Martindales
Civil engineer Peter Dann

Credit: Feilden Fowles Architects
Credit: Feilden Fowles Architects
Credit: Feilden Fowles Architects
Credit: Feilden Fowles Architects
Credit: Feilden Fowles Architects
Credit: Feilden Fowles Architects

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