This building will form a new south eastern base for the UK Government’s housing agency - Homes England - and is located within phase 2 of the new town of Northstowe to the north of Cambridge. Currently under construction, the project now represents an important addition to the practice’s commercial portfolio and explores innovative ideas for structured and informal work environments. Break-out areas and touch-down spaces are located throughout the building and are designed in response to the itinerant inter-regional working patterns of Homes England employees.
The 620 sq.m open plan office building will provide a modern, purpose-built office environment together with meeting rooms, breakout spaces, conference facilities and a ground level multi-use space for public consultation events, exhibitions and presentations as the Northstowe development progresses. The two-storey building is being constructed using a full modular system, reducing construction time and disruption, and allowing the building to be re-used and adapted to provide future community facilities for the wider development. Offsite construction specialist McAvoy Group have been appointed as main contactor to deliver the project as Homes England continue to champion the benefits of modular construction.
Proctor and Matthews’ design references local heritage, textures and crafts, in response to the edge of Cambridgeshire Fenland location. A key feature is a canopy of locally manufactured woven willow hurdles set within steel frames – a prominent landmark overlooking the surrounding flat landscape that references traditional coppicing and weaving crafts, while providing shelter to a central open sided courtyard and external working environment. The building’s textured character continues with an ‘open weave’ of vertical timber battens that wraps the ground and first floor office space, concealing window frames and guarding glazed ventilation panels. The first floor wall panels and steel framework supporting the canopy share a terracotta colour palette that references the many Roman pottery shards discovered as part of the extensive archaeological investigations across the Norsthstowe Landscape.
Northstowe is Cambridgeshire’s newest town, located on the former RAF Oakington barracks around six miles from Cambridge. When complete it will be the UK’s largest new town since Milton Keynes with 10,000 new homes. As well as designing the new south east regional office for Homes England, Proctor and Matthews Architects were appointed in June 2017 to provide architectural services for Northstowe Phase 2, to produce concept designs for the initial parcel of 400 homes.