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View: Grid List
Client
University of Cambridge
Location
Cambridge
Size
19,200sqm
Contact
Johnny Winter
Team
Davis Langdon, Northcrofts, Buro Happold, Roger Preston, WSP Group, Livingston Eyre, John Laing, Sir Robert McAlpine, Laing O'Rourke,
Awards
BCI Major Projects Award (2003) RIBA Award (2003) Royal Fine Art Commission University Building of the Year (2003) David Urwin Award (2003)
Press
Architecture Today (2004) New Civil Engineer (1998) Building Services Journal (2002) Architectural Review (2003) The Guardian (2003) Building Design (2000)

The Centre for Mathematical Sciences has broken down barriers between disciplines in a working environment highly praised by academics and students. 

Centre for Mathematical Sciences

The Centre for Mathematical Sciences was designed to encourage academic dialogue and discovery by bringing together the Pure and Applied Mathematics Departments of the University of Cambridge. 

The complex was built in three phases and is made up of seven pavilions; a central social building; the circular Betty and Gordon Moore Library, home to the Stephen Hawking archive; and a gatehouse that forms a dramatic entrance to a new contemporary Cambridge courtyard.

The Centre for Mathematical Sciences has encouraged new research and funding and has had a positive impact on staff and student recruitment. 

In a 2002 Post-occupancy Review of Buildings and their Engineering (PROBE) study, the performance of the buildings, together with a high level of satisfaction among academics and students, placed the Centre for Mathematical Sciences in the top percentile, a result endorsed by BSRIA after a subsequent study in 2006. 

"Everybody I worked with at Cullinan’s was enthusiastic, professional and conscientious. They contributed significantly to the management of the project during the construction phases. The Centre for Mathematical Sciences has now been occupied for eight years. The building's quality architecture and functionality are highly regarded within the University and by the mathematicians."

John Woods, Project Manager, University of Cambridge, 14 January 2011

Context

The Centre for Mathematical Sciences was built on a greenfield site in suburban west Cambridge and its scale responds sympathetically to its residential neighbours. 

By creating seven separate pavilions street edges are visually maintained and views across the site preserved. The largest building – the central social hub – avoids dominating its surroundings by being partially sunk into the ground under a grass roof. This gives the grounds the appearance of being stepped or layered. 

The landscape design, including planting around the perimeter of the site, has knitted the buildings well into their leafy suburban setting. 

Creativity

The masterplan for the Centre for Mathematical Sciences and, in particular, the design of social circulation areas, encourages the crossing of boundaries between the disciplines of pure and applied mathematics. 

As well as formal lecture theatres and private study spaces, the layout of the buildings and the way that they work provide academics and students with places to meet casually and exchange ideas. 

Private spaces progress naturally into public spaces. The seven pavilions – one of them double sized and housing the main lecture theatre – are gathered around the tapering grass-roofed central building, which is the social heart of the academic community. Each pavilion has 40 study spaces and a shared ground floor common room. In four of the pavilions this opens directly into the central social hub. It is here that people come together to relax and interact with each other in the dining hall and informal meeting places. 

All the buildings are generously planned, thoughtfully finished and detailed throughout, and people have a high degree of personal control over their working environment.

Each zinc-roofed pavilion has a lift shaft at its centre, surrounded by a central stair encased in a concrete and glass block tower and topped with a glazed lantern. Circular corridors give access to the study spaces around the perimeter.

Slender, pre-cast concrete arches on massive buttresses span the barrel-vaulted central building. It has a slatted timber ceiling and daylight is brought down into the middle of the space through strips of glass block set in the apex of the roof’s curve. Above, the glass blocks form the pavement of an axial path that runs along the roof.

"Cambridge has managed to fuse science with style. It’s a work of genius …Seven years in the making, here are seven pillars of architectural wisdom … The Centre for Mathematical Sciences is a delightful resolution of an equation made up of squares and straight lines, curves and circles, civil architecture and wilful suburbia. It has a feet-on-the-ground, head-in-the-clouds quality that matches and mirrors the exact yet questing world of mathematics itself."

Jonathan Glancey, The Guardian, 14 July 2003

Climate

The post-occupancy PROBE study commissioned by the University of Cambridge confirmed good energy performance. 

The buildings are designed to stay warm in winter and cool in summer – with low running costs. They have exposed thermal mass, natural ventilation, night cooling, solar shading and a building management system to regulate the internal environment. The Centre for Mathematical Sciences provides a good example of advanced natural ventilation, with automatic controls and manual override for opening windows and vents, and internal blinds.

In areas with no windows, ventilation and lighting are introduced through the glass lanterns that are a feature of the pavilion rooftops. Solar sensors and movement detectors control lighting. The central social building is insulated by its grass roof. 

The buildings are ageing well – thanks to high-quality materials and efficient building services maintenance.