Graduate Accommodation at Clare Hall College / Cowper Griffith Architects

© Peter Cook

Architects: Cowper Griffith Architects
Location: , United Kingdom
Design Team: Ramboll UK, Max Fordham LLP, Gardiner & Theobald
Contractor: Kier Marriott
Project Year: 2010
Photographs: Peter Cook

The Salje building at Clare Hall in Cambridge is named after the former college president Eckhard Salje, who spent a significant amount of his presidency travelling the Far East and raising funds for an ‘International Study and Research Centre’. The new Salje building provides accommodation for visiting fellows from South Korean, Japanese and Chinese Universities, who contributed to the fundraising, for this new college accommodation.

In order to minimize impact on the flood plain of the nearby Bin Brook, the building is designed to be as compact as possible. The building is the first on the site to have three stories and is split in two halves, creating a central atrium for circulation. The eastern half is slightly off-set and skewed towards Bin Brook. The intention here is to break the formality of the existing West Court buildings around the courtyard and respond to the more arcadian nature of the mature trees on the floodplain.


The materials of the building also seek to acknowledge this difference in aspect. The courtyard elevation is calm and simple with a regular pattern of crisp aluminium and glass window boxes piercing through the textured brickwork. This western half of the building houses 13 graduate rooms and the eastern half houses 5 fellows’ flats and student common room, each with a balcony overlooking Bin Brook. Here, the materials change to zinc and western red cedar. The materials animate the building’s form along this elevation, which has a more complex arrangement and detailing.

© Peter Cook

Similar materials are used internally. White textured brick wall wraps around the main eastern block volume and expresses itself through one side of the atrium. The concrete frame is exposed as the ceiling soffit in all rooms, where it also plays a key role in the natural ventilation and cooling of the building. Elsewhere, white plastered walls give a sense of light and space, and timber floors add warmth.

© Peter Cook

Student rooms by their nature, have to be well ventilated. Above each student room door is located a custom made, acoustically lined, air transfer unit with egg-crate grilles to each side. Inside the unit is a shutter, which is electronically controlled by the occupant. The unit allows for natural purge ventilation of the bedrooms when the shutter is open. Through trickle vents or by opening the window shutters a cross-ventilation through the room into the atrium is created. The atrium ventilation employs a pressure and temperature driven stack effect natural ventilation, via controlled openings in 3 roof cowls operated by a building management system. Fresh air is drawn into bedrooms via the de-pressurisation effect of the en-suite mechanical extract system. Mechanical ventilation is only specified for bathrooms and kitchens where absolutely necessary to meet the requirements of the Building Regulations.


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Cite: "Graduate Accommodation at Clare Hall College / Cowper Griffith Architects" 29 Jul 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 May 2015. <>
  • Marmaras

    I like the interior very much. It allows natural light to enter into every spot of the rooms. I also like technologies used in the roof system

  • AG

    Very reminiscent of Villa Mairea

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