28 November 2018

A harmonious outcome: Storey’s Field Community Centre and Nursery

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Storey’s Field Community Centre and Nursery, named winner of winners at the 2018 Wood Awards ceremony last week, was complimented by the chair of the buildings judging panel, Stephen Corbett from Green Oak Carpentry, for its ‘winning combination of architectural merit, structural ingenuity and flawless execution’ – and it’s not hard to see why.


A recent addition to the village of Eddington in Cambridge, part of the university’s new town recently populated with post-graduates, key workers, and their families, the project was conceived out of a wish for a flexible village “heart” that was an exemplar of sustainability and could serve the growing community.


The building consists of a 100-place nursery and a community centre with a 180-seat main hall which can function as a civic centre and a place for weddings, concerts, local groups and parties. The careful integration of the two resembles a Cambridge college; the vertical volume of the hall acts as a focal point to the new village centre and forms one side of an expansive courtyard which is enclosed on the other three sides by the nursery classrooms.


These three classrooms are striking both internally and externally, with tall inclined ceilings which rise up into pitched turrets clad with cedar shingles. The courtyard onto which the classrooms open functions as a central outdoor play area, with a sheltered cloister which follows the perimeter of the roof.


The main hall structure on the fourth side is a series of slender glulam portal frames, 500mm wide but only 80mm thick, yet with columns which reach 7.5 metres in height and beams which span more than 10 metres.  The portal frames support paired edge beams, each 450 x 200mm, which in turn support the roof structure, a set of deep glulam trusses, spaced at irregular intervals to achieve the necessary openings for the acoustics and ventilation strategies. Four large 480 x 240mm glulam columns stand at the corners of the structure to reduce horizontal deflection.


Internally, the spacious main hall accommodates a wide range of activities and acoustic performances, including chamber music and film screenings, so the ability to reconfigure and consequently optimise the space was necessary for quality acoustic performance. The lower walls are lined with oak ‘linen fold’ panels of varying depths with concealed acoustic doors within them to enhance the sound; a series of slender spruce glulam portal frame columns then emerge from above, which create a zone before the glazed clerestory where acoustic banners have been installed. The use of profiled brickwork above this still on the east and west walls create a surface of depth and shadow which helps to soften the acoustic.


The west wall has an open mezzanine, clad with timber, from which a beautiful timber spiral staircase rises more than eight metres to give access to the plant on the roof. It is constructed of steel plate overlaid with ash veneer, with a balustrade of 25mm thick ash veneered plywood with a solid ash handrail. At the base of the staircase is a stair gate in ash veneer.


Timber was chosen to intentionally cultivate a dignified and welcoming ambience within the hall. Soft, warm tones are established through a careful, conscious layering of oak, ash and spruce, which lighten as they rise up the walls and modulate the scale of the hall.


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