Cowan Court, Churchill College

An international, design competition-winning scheme for a new hall of residence at Churchill College. The project provides the college with 68 student ensuite rooms, a community room on the ground floor and storage in the basement.

The three-storey building form re-invents the traditional quad with curved external elevations of differing radii between the corners, so that each floor gets some shade from the level above. The elevations are clad in vertical, reclaimed-oak boards from French railway wagons, bought by the college in advance of the construction contract to secure their delivery. The detailing of the boards results in an appearance reminiscent of the adjacent concrete and brick brutalist courtyards, designed by Sheppard Robson in the 1960s.

To meet the requirements for accessibility, each floor has level access around the landscaped courtyard, served by two lift and stair cores. Twin-wall concrete panels frame the in-situ concrete stair cores and provide stability to the glulam timber frame. 

Services distribution is integrated into the timber frame design while the exposed glulam beams are a key feature of the study bedrooms. The new foul drainage links to the existing college system, while the surface water is attenuated and discharged to the ditch on the site boundary.

This project was procured as a Design & Build contract, with SDC Construction positively contributing to improving buildability that met the stringent air tightness requirements and maintained overall design quality.

Completed 2016

Project Information


Churchill College


6a architects




Johan Dehlin


Cambridge Design and Construction Awards, Best New Large Building 2017
Civic Trust Award, Commendation 2017
RIBA East Award 2017
Wood Award, Highly Commended, Education & Public Sector 2017