Creative Exchange — St. Neots

Huntingdonshire District Council

Scott Wilson / ZEF / Davis Langdon

The Creative Exchange was designed to provide 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.

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 the project advocacy, 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 Achitecture Reviews Awards for Emerging Architecture.

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

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.

RIBA Award judges’ citation

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

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


Prime Minister’s – Better Public Building Award

Creative Exchange — St. Neots


British Construction Industry Awards – Local Authority Award

Creative Exchange — St. Neots


RIBA – Spirit of Ingenuity Award

Creative Exchange — St. Neots

Photography by Timothy Soar



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