Cambridge Junction Redevelopment — Project Level Up

Client
Cambridge City Council

Collaborators
Charcoal Blue / Momentum / Max Fordham / Ramboll Acoustics / Turley / Counterculture

5th Studio initiated a conversation with the Cambridge Junction in 2013 that led to an options appraisal and tender for the works to deliver a cultural hub for Cambridge.

The options appraisal outlined our vision for a series of interventions and new spaces. These include a new Junction One (J1) performance space and connective foyer, and provisions for creative studio spaces that could develop a more sustainable and independent business model. A series of options have been explored from a zero-intervention approach through to the full redevelopment of the site. The preferred option looks to unify the performance venues and create a coherent front of house. Additionally, it looks to provide several flexible studio spaces for creative industry businesses. This option also allows for the improvement of the building’s environmental performance – reducing The Junction’s running costs and carbon footprint.

For many visitors, their first glimpse of The Junction will be from the train. This highly-visible position should be exploited to showcase activity and programming at The Junction’s venues. This could include digital displays and innovative art projects.

The Junction benefits from its proximity to two world-renowned centers for scientific enterprise and innovation: the Cambridge Science Park and the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. Additionally, London Kings Cross is 50 minutes away by train. These adjacencies make the site attractive to future tenants.

Culture in the Expanding City

Cambridge has always struggled to provide a comprehensive range of cultural spaces for young people. As the city grows, this is becoming a pressing issue.

With a lack of former industrial space – compared to a city like Bristol or Norwich – there are few affordable and contingent spaces for cultural and artistic production. This is particularly prevalent at a professional level. These include rehearsal and studio spaces as well as the associated cluster of cultural infrastructure that enables and optimises cultural production. Cultural provision of this kind considers the quality of life in a growing city.

Cuts to Local Authority funding have made it difficult to support local services. To secure The Junction’s future, it is important to build a sustainable revenue-generating ecosystem and increase the number of potential income streams that support cultural production and consumption.

The Junction Site and an Emerging Quarter

The site – a former cattle market on the margins of the city – is evolving as part of a central quarter with Cambridge Railway Station at its heart.

Over the medium term, the Clifton Road estate (Major Site M2 in the Local Plan) will be redeveloped for the provision of a new eastern entrance to the station. Furthermore – as the site sits within an opportunity area (Railway Station, Hills Road Corridor to the City Centre) – its development should deliver public realm improvements, re-establish historic routes and create a more coherent and connected pedestrian environment. To address poor connectivity and make the most out of its regeneration, it is critical that this redevelopment is considered comprehensively, with Cambridge Leisure square as a key public space and gateway to the emerging quarter.

The Junction – as one of the city’s prominent public buildings – plays a crucial role in building this new fine network of routes and public spaces. This could transform the site’s poor-quality connection from Hills Road bridge and catalyse the transformation of the square into one of the city’s great urban spaces. We would also explore and enhance the site’s prominence, thus demonstrating the importance of arts and creative technology to the life of the city.

The Junction should have a prominent role in shaping the life of the square and establishing it as an important public space in the city. It is an active foyer ‘where art and technology meet life’.

Our approach could strengthen The Junction’s existing front and back edges by creating a new primary entrance for all the venues from the main square. Additionally, multiple dedicated entrances to the new office/studio spaces could be provided. A hard-working yard space could offer a range of uses from servicing and deliveries to events.

Opportunities on the Site

Since opening as a single venue in 1990, The Junction has been successful in obtaining funding for two extensions: Junction Two (J2) and Junction Three (J3). At the expense of a coherent front of house, these extensions operate as autonomous additions to the venue and have successfully created a diverse range of technical spaces (J1, J2 and J3).

Rather than further extensions, we are interested in how a design strategy becomes the ‘glue’ between the technical spaces, creating a vibrant and exciting front of house where art and technology meet life. The strategy includes a great bar/café and box office as well as various adaptable configurations that support The Junction’s spatial transitions throughout the day and night.

A new shared foyer space could connect to the existing J2 foyer and a new continuous floor surface. This would help to create unity between the two spaces. The existing facade to J2 could be stripped back to the steel structure and re-clad with curtain walling to create an open facade to the public square.

A series of options were explored ranging from a zero-intervention approach to a full redevelopment of the site.

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