Storey’s Field Community Centre and Nursery is a building of rare quality, shortlisted for The Stirling Prize and cited, in its RIBA Award, as demonstrating “how an architect can add joy, an enhanced experience of materials and human dimension to every part of a building.”
Storey’s Field Community Centre and Nursery sits at the heart of the village of Eddington in north-west Cambridge – part of the university’s new town, only recently populated with residents: Cambridge post-grads and key workers, together with their families.
The architect, MUMA, was deeply involved in the briefing process from the start, which evolved into two requirements: a community hall large enough to seat 180 people, to act as a civic centre, and a place for weddings, concert performances, local groups and parties, plus a nursery for 100 children.
The architect has integrated the two together in a plan similar to a Cambridge college; the vertical volume of the hall – like a college dining hall – forms one side of an expansive courtyard which is enclosed on the other three sides by the single-storey nursery, together with staff offices and public toilets. The courtyard is a children’s play space and a sheltered cloister runs along its edges. The three nursery classrooms open directly onto the courtyard so that children can play freely outside in privacy and safety. The three classrooms have lofty inclined ceilings, expressed externally by three pitched turret roofs clad with cedar shingles.
All the public spaces are adaptable; for instance, the walled garden next to the main hall can be part of a wedding celebration but can also be used for quiet reading for nursery pupils. The main hall, ten metres high, acts as the focal point to the new village centre and its main entrance is set back to create a communal gathering space, with stone benches inset into the walls for locals to sit and chat. The external walls are buff-coloured brick to match the requirements of the masterplan, but profiled with projecting bands of header and stretcher courses to create depth and shadow.
The building has been designed as an exemplar of sustainability and timber has been used throughout the building, both inside and outside, to achieve this. Within the main hall, the use of timber has also been key to creating a warm and welcoming environment with a high quality of acoustic performance.