View of the approach from the South East

Creative Exchange — St. Neots

Client
Huntingdonshire District Council

Collaborators
Scott Wilson / ZEF / Davis Langdon

Creative Exchange provides start-up workspace for around 20 fledgling creative businesses, as well as links with a number of education and training institutions. The project was commissioned by the local authority in order to help catalyse a creative economy in this market town, orientated to the Cambridge innovation phenomena.

Creative Exchange is located in mature parkland, now forming the grounds of Longsands College. The building has public rooms on the ground floor (meeting rooms, reception), a shared studio space at first floor level, and two further floors of rooms of different sizes, let to different tenants. These spaces are clustered around a hall on each floor which offers a generous social space looking onto the park. A roof garden provides useful additional working space, and a further connection to the building’s wider landscape setting.

The project was joint funded by Huntingdonshire District Council and central government. 5th Studio played an instrumental role in fundraising for the project, and worked to deliver an innovative and inspirational low-carbon building within a process in which cost control and value engineering were critical.

Since the building was completed, it has been recognised with numerous awards, including an RIBA Award and a British Construction Industry Award. The project was also: listed by CABE as one of its ‘Top 10’ achievements in its 10 Year Review; a finalist for the Prime Minister’s Better Public Building award; and commended in the AR Awards for Emerging Architecture.

 

The building was conceived as replacement for Priory Park’s demolished house

Its scale and form – a compact 4 storey building – enable a strong relationship to the park and generous configuration of accommodation

View of the approach from the South-East

View of the roof garden

The interior is characterised by the use of palette materials which are economic and robust, but with an inherent material quality

Spatial generosity in communal areas eliminates long corridor spaces

View North from the first floor studio space

The building is located in mature parkland forming the grounds of Longsands College

5th Studio's Creative Exchange for St Neots in Cambridgeshire is a wonderful example of why it's a good idea to hire a decent architect. The ingenuity of Tom Holbrook and his team at 5th Studio allowed the Creative Exchange to fulfil its potential on several levels – socially, politically, urbanistically, architecturally.

Professor Peter Carl, Architects' Journal

The project aimed to deliver an innovative and environmentally sustainable building on a challenging budget

Easington House served as a useful precedent

The building's lower floors contain a series of public spaces connecting to the park

The studio spaces are on the upper levels, and connect to a shared roof garden

Ground floor plan

Second floor plan

Roof plan

North Elevation

This is an extraordinary and intriguing building and an entirely appropriate response to the issues of business development in the rural context of Cambridgeshire. The building form is complex. Each floorplate and each elevation creates a distinct ‘place’ for a small business. The experience is of an exhilarating tree house where the occupants look down on the school-children rushing to and from school. The choice of materials and fixings is strongly influenced by the budget but also displays a touch of ‘Hoxton chic’ with experimental choices of materials such as structural glass, second hand plywood linings and face-fixed services. The energy strategy has surprising innovations like a buried earth pipe that provides cooled or warmed air, thus reducing energy costs.

RIBA Award judges’ citation

The building is anchored by a large-scale landscape idea about its relationship to the park in which it is located

Awards

  • 2010 / RIBA Award / Winner
  • 2009 / Prime Minister’s – Better Public Building Award / Finalist
  • 2009 / British Construction Industry Awards – Local Authority Award / Winner

Press

Credits
Photography by Timothy Soar

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