Homerton College, Cambridge and Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC) announced on 21 March that Feilden Fowles has won Homerton College’s design competition for a new £7m showpiece dining hall. Other finalists for this sought-after commission, which attracted huge interest from the UK architectural community, included recent Stirling Prize winner Caruso St John, dRMM, Hall McKnight and Walters & Cohen.
The College enjoys an extremely attractive, arboreal site of circa 25 acres in South Cambridge. The brief to competitors called for ‘a spectacular and unique architectural composition that relates to the rich and diverse mix of buildings around it and enhances the natural loveliness of the setting’. The new 300-person hall will provide the backdrop both for formal, set-piece ceremonial events and for daily gatherings.
The initiative is part of Homerton’s wider estates strategy to offer students, academics and staff exemplary facilities, and construction is expected to begin in the College’s 250th Anniversary Year, 2018.
The College’s Estates Project Board served as the competition jury, supported by MRC and Martindales Architects. The Board was unanimous in choosing Feilden Fowles. The runner-up practice was dRMM.
Feilden Fowles described their winning concept design as an Arts and Crafts building of the 21st century, conveying formality at times and comfortable familiarity at others. In their winning submission they said the design ‘will celebrate the integrity and inherent beauty of materials and craftsmanship’.
The design, both inside and out, is expressive in form and rich in sensory detail. Visually, it provides an uplifting climax to the College’s range of significant buildings along Harrison Drive. Masonry piers set with windows connect the new Hall to its picturesque setting, capturing and framing views for the diners. Above this plinth, a faience and glass corona leads the eye upwards to the wide East Anglian sky.
Professor Geoffrey Ward, Principal of Homerton College, Cambridge, said: “This development will encapsulate much of what Homerton is about: a creative, inclusive community that is ambitious to contribute to the wider society.
“The opportunity to make an environment that is physically beautiful and functions elegantly is a rare privilege, and if on a deep level it can also encourage mutuality, the sharing of ideas and motivations, then it really has the power to inspire current and future generations.
“We are particularly pleased to be able to start this work in 2018, when the College will have a year-long public celebration of our 250th Anniversary.
“Feilden Fowles’ concept design for the dining hall subtly relates to the existing ensemble of buildings and the garden setting, and yet has the poise to convince as a showpiece.
“What appealed so strongly about the team’s particular approach was their openness to creating many opportunities for dialogue. We are looking forward to working with them as they develop the detailed design.”
Deborah Griffin OBE, College Bursar, said: “The College was delighted with the quality, breadth and variety of designs on offer and congratulates the shortlist for their hard work.
“Feilden Fowles’ emphasis on craft resonated on many levels. This connected with Homerton’s much loved Arts and Crafts buildings, but also is an expression of how the College continues to value care and innovation, both intrinsic to our vision for the future.”
Fergus Feilden, Director of Feilden Fowles, said: “We are thrilled to win this open competition to design the new dining hall for Homerton College. We feel very honoured to be given the opportunity ahead of more established practices and feel it reflects the genuine openness of the competition process, as well as the College’s belief in investing in young talent.
“The project offers a unique chance to create a transformational space at the heart of an already stunning site. This is a privilege we do not take lightly and we are determined to deliver a world class facility. We can’t wait to get started.”
Malcolm Reading, Competition Director and Chairman of MRC, said: “Homerton was a progressive client that wholeheartedly embraced the potential of the competitive process, and we are delighted that the College has selected an emerging practice for this fascinating commission. This is MRC’s first competition for a Cambridge College, and we have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.”
Feilden Fowles is rapidly making a name for itself as an emerging force, with a reputation for delivering exemplary projects in highly sensitive and challenging historic settings. London-based, the practice was named BD’s ‘Young Architect of the Year’ in 2016. It has won numerous awards including three RIBA Awards, a Civic Trust Award and a RICS Community Benefit Award.
The ‘Celebrating Homerton’ competition was launched in August 2016. A new model for a competitive process, it combined the advantages of a streamlined invited contest with a wider call for fresh talent. This attracted widespread interest from the architectural community with 155 practices registering their interest in the competition at the first stage; from these 24 were selected for the long-list.
Homerton is among Cambridge’s largest Colleges by student number. Its large estate includes the listed Ibberson Building in the Arts and Crafts style and the Gothic Revival Great Hall.
The much loved Great Hall will be renovated in a parallel project and continue to be used for events, performances, and smaller dinners. Feilden Fowles will now develop their concept design in close partnership with the College. Construction of the 1,400 sq m project, which also includes new kitchens and support spaces, is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2018.