Sheppard Robson’s plans for St John’s Innovation Park, Cambridge, get green light

19th November 2021

The consented project’s super-flexible buildings offer a range of office and R&D spaces, with the design defining a new civic square at the heart of the development

Designed by architects Sheppard Robson, plans for two new office buildings, as well as a transport hub at St John’s Innovation Park in North East Cambridge have been granted planning permission from Cambridge City Council. The approved plans will sit next to a newly created and extensively landscaped public space, with their entrances addressing and making the most of the green surroundings.

The design of the building - for client St John’s College with development manager Turnstone Estates - features a strong, simple architectural form, which is animated by a series of external cutaways. This architectural approach is illustrated by the design of the Dirac Building with three cutaways adding dynamism and external amenity spaces to the building.

The prominent double-height cutaway at ground level of the Dirac Building clearly communicates the entrance to the building, with the arrival experience and reception designed to forge close connections to the new public square opposite. Another smaller incision into the building’s gridded form creates a double height ‘balcony’, adding a sense of drama to the internal spaces whilst further animating the external form. The third cutaway creates a rooftop terrace, with this amenity space for tenants offering views towards central Cambridge.

The elevations of the two office and R&D buildings use a shared architectural language and are characterised by a strong gridded form, with curved spandrels reflecting the surrounding environment and giving the facades an iridescent quality and softness. Further texture is added from fluted panels in each bay, which help control solar gain and boost environmental performance, while subtly adding architectural interest.

David Ardill, Partner at Sheppard Robson said: “It’s fantastic to see this ambitious project progress. Right across our industry, we are seeing a convergence of traditional workplace and spaces for science, technology and R&D; Cambridge is the epicentre of this change and this project looks to create a new workplace community with landscape at its heart.”

Chris Goldsmith, Managing Director, Turnstone commented: “This is an important step in the development of St John’s Innovation Park and the continued growth of the Cambridge economy. These new architecturally striking workspaces will resonate with the next generation of innovators in technology and R&D and attract those looking for accessible, well-connected, best-in-class buildings in the northern Cambridge Cluster.”

Suzie Wood, Investment Property Manager, St John’s College added: “This next phase of development is part of the college’s long-term strategic vision for St John’s Innovation Park to continue to both support our current dynamic and ambitious companies and welcome new organisations too. Today’s approval not only marks an exciting chapter of fresh growth in the north east Cambridge research and development cluster, but also benefits the health and well-being of all those at the Park with the provision of new open spaces for relaxation and interaction, and a fitness studio open to all tenants.”

As part of the college’s long-term strategic vision for the park, the buildings - helped by their rational and robust forms - can flex to accommodate a broad range of occupiers. The buildings, both offering around 85,000ft² of space, can accommodate a single occupier as well as multi-tenant use, with each floorplate accommodating up to four tenants. The increased flexibility has been carefully calibrated to offer a dynamic and supportive incubation environment for ambitious and innovative firms at all stages of their development.

The office buildings provide extensive cycle storage, while the adjacent transport hub features car parking and amenities, including a gym. The structure is capped with a green roof, promoting biodiversity and demonstrating the College’s commitment to sustainability.

It is anticipated that the first phase of development will be the construction of the Dirac Building (named after Paul Dirac, Nobel Prize winner for physics in 1933 and fellow of St John’s College from 1969 until his death in 1984) and the transport hub.