Caruso St John Architects

Location: Cambridge, UK
Client: Downing College
Project Status: Built

Caruso St John were commissioned by Downing College to refurbish the listed dining hall in 2001. The project brief was subsequently expanded to include back-of-house facilities, fellows' accommodation and offices within adjacent later buildings.

The original Downing College buildings were designed by William Wilkins in the early 1800s, and were very influential in their time, heralding the Greek Revival style and campus plan type. Now listed grade 1, they stand in stark contrast to the predominantly Medieval and Gothic adjacent colleges. In the late 1960s Howell Killick Partridge and Amis added a fine extension to the dining hall for a new senior combination room, kitchen and administration offices. The new project works within both the Georgian and modernist buildings.

The intricate and complex changes have involved adjusting, improving and extending the existing buildings, without closing the operation of the dining hall, requiring the project to be carried out in phases. The first phase, to replace the kitchens, servery bar and external administrative offices, was completed in 2007. The second phase started in 2008 and upgraded the facilities of the dining hall, along with a transformation of its interior, removing previous layers of refurbishment and giving it a character aligned with the Wilkins original. The architects have attended to all aspects of the listed interior including designing the new furniture and chandeliers.