Boathouse complete for Cambridge colleges

Combined colleges of Cambridge University, together with The Leys School, to benefit from state of the art boathouse facility

R H Partnership Architects (RHP) has completed work on a new boathouse for the combined Cambridge Colleges of Churchill, King’s and Selwyn, together with The Leys School. Located on the banks of the River Cam, it replaces the previous 60s built boathouse which was considered by the Local Authority to be a ‘building that detracted’ from the Riverside Conservation Area.

The old building had an industrial aesthetic and lacked the appeal and character of other boathouses along the river. It was also in need of considerable repair and refurbishment to meet current standards. The RHP design has provided much improved facilities for the clubs, moving all of the environmentally controlled accommodation out of the flood zone. Changing rooms, fitness rooms and the four Club Rooms are all now housed on the first floor, leaving only the garage style spaces of boat storage bays and the boatman’s workshop at the ground level where the detailing, services and materials have been robustly designed for resilience to flooding and to ensure ease of cleaning-out and safety in wet conditions.

The Cam side site is prone to flooding of up to one metre in height and there were tight limits on the volume of flood zone capacity that could be used. Development and infrastructure consultancy, Peter Brett Associates were a key part of the team involved with delivering the project, garnering agreement from the Environment Agency for their Flood Risk Assessment and delivering the Flood Evacuation Plan.

The finished building incorporates traditional materials with crisp detailing, resulting in an elegant composition of a lighter upper floor above a more robust and solid base. The expressed ridge and balcony lines, together with solar shading elements provide a floating horizontal emphasis reflecting the proportions of slender rowing boats. The deeper corner balcony area and roof overhang is supported by an expressed column with reference to blades and boat riggers.

Renowned glass artist Kate Maestri was commissioned to create a glazed balustrade design which reflects the pattern and rhythm of rowing blades when completing a stroke.

RHP Director, Ray Chudleigh, commented: “This has been a very enjoyable project to work on, all four of the client bursars contributed enthusiastically to the design development and were committed to achieving a high quality end product which we believe now positively contributes to, and enhances, the character of the Conservation Area.”

Nick Downer, Bursar for Selwyn College, adds: “The four partners are delighted to take delivery of our new boathouse.  It provides an ideal combination of elegance and functionality and is a major improvement on its predecessor. Our thanks go to Ray and the design and construction team.”

The Combined Colleges Boathouse has now been handed over and is fully operational.

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