MUMA invests the facades of a Cambridge community centre and nursery with functional and decorative purpose


Alan Williams

Storey’s Field Community Centre & Nursery serves the new community of Eddington at the North West Cambridge Development. Located adjacent to a new primary school, the 100-place nursery is arranged around three sides of a landscaped courtyard. On the fourth side, the more civic-scaled community centre, with a 180-capacity main hall, flanks an entrance terrace and creates a marker in the new urban realm.

Because the building is viewed in-the-round, architect MUMA has composed each facade carefully, with inset brickwork entrances to form sheltered thresholds, carved stone seating and patterned brickwork. The brick was selected for its colour variation, texture and dimensional uniformity. Recessed stainless steel rainwater pipes and spouts add elevational interest.

A band of vertical stretcher bond brickwork spans each entrance and extends around the building. At the main hall, this is developed as an irregular ‘strata’ of stretcher and soldier course bonds. At high level a band of Flemish bond brickwork with projecting, recessed and missing headers gives texture to the facade while also integrating the passive air extract route at the east and west ends of the hall.

The massing of the main hall is intended to create an appropriate sense of place while its volume enables a full range of acoustic performances and allows a stack-effect passive ventilation strategy. Fresh air is drawn from the adjacent walled garden through a perforated brick wall, and cooled via a labyrinth before entering the space through floor-level grilles. The air is extracted through openings concealed within the layered, structural ceiling of ash joists, battens and veneered plywood. The acoustic attenuation zone above the ceiling controls noise break-in and break-out before the air exits through a combination of perforated, patterned brickwork and louvres.

Like the dining halls and chapels of many Cambridge colleges, the main hall employs a timber-lined base, clerestorey light and an exposed, articulated structure to establish datums and modulate the scale. The combination of patterned internal brickwork and carved oak ‘linenfold’ panels provides textured surfaces that spread the high frequency sound, while the irregularly spaced glulam portal frames break up sound reflections from the glazing.

The white stained glulam portal frames, which spring from the timber-lined base, are pulled clear of the walls to allow a zone behind for adjustable acoustic banners. The resulting depth of wall is exploited in the south facade by a stone seat, set into a stepped and corbelled brick recess.


Externally, the glazing at clerestorey level is detailed so as to ‘float’ in front of the brickwork to emphasise the volume. The glazing is specified and detailed to deal with the challenging acoustic requirements of the hall, while also providing solar control and good clarity for views of the sky. At the east end of the hall, below the textured internal brickwork, a full-width opening captures views to the landscape. At the west end, a tall window addresses the town centre. At night, lit from within, the hall acts like a lantern in the new town.

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Structural engineer
Facade engineering
Quantity surveyor
Gardiner & Theobald

Wienerberger, Taylor Maxwell, Anglian
Wicona, Uniform, Velfac Rainwater goods
Glulam structure
Just Swiss Timber
Flat roof
Erisco Bauder