Sheppard Robson’s release plans for St John’s Innovation Park, Cambridge

21st October 2020

The 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.

A detailed planning application has been submitted for two new office buildings, as well as a transport hub at St John’s Innovation Park in North East Cambridge. On completion, the buildings 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 to 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.

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.

Subject to planning approval, 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. Work on these two buildings will begin in 2021 and will be ready for occupation in the first quarter of 2023.

The detailed design for the project’s three new buildings forms the first phase of a larger wider masterplan concept by Sheppard Robson for St John’s Innovation Park in North East Cambridge. This strategic vision incorporates new office buildings and an incubator building with amenities that make the most of the wider development’s parkland setting, which are intended to be built progressively over the next 15 to 20 years.

David Ardill, Partner at Sheppard Robson said: "Sheppard Robson is delighted to submit the next phase of St John’s Innovation Park, which has been developed closely with the client, to create a design that puts people at the heart of the development by employing a landscape-forward approach."