Alison Richard Building

University of Cambridge

The Alison Richard Building is part of the School for the Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts. It brings together the new department of Politics and International Studies, a number of inter-geographical research groups and the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH).

The School wished to create a vibrant and interactive research environment that would facilitate intellectual collaboration. The shape of the building enables each of the user groups to maintain a distinct identity - providing them with flexible space in a dedicated floor or wing.

The atrium with its clusters of seminar rooms and shared informal meeting areas acts as the centre for collaboration whether planned or serendipitous. The ground floor seminar rooms, exhibition space and café are open to wider site users encouraging interaction with neighbouring departments too.

In over forty years of working in universities I have never known a building meet with such unalloyed approval. Both beautiful and functional! From start to finish the team has been terrific and deserve every congratulation.
Professor William Brown - Head of the School of Humanities
The University is delighted with the new Alison Richard Building as a place for teaching, learning and research. Space efficiency is important to the University and the project team’s translation of the demanding area brief has been highly successful.
John Neve, University of Cambridge

The importance of context

The building is located alongside Foster’s Law Faculty and Stirling’s History Library on the Sidgwick site – the University’s main campus for the Arts and a City conservation area.

The project presented the opportunity to restore the coherence of the original 1952 Casson Conder masterplan for the site by forming a new gateway from the north and defining enyoyable external spaces. The distinctive z shaped form of the building creates two new courtyards of different characters: a formal entrance court and a south facing garden court linked to the café. The public realm is further enhanced by a series of installations within the entrance courtyard by the ceramicist Edmund de Waal.

A simple palette of durable, traditional materials combined with elegant proportions creates a building of calm modernity - at ease with its varied context.

The building and its external spaces more than meet the aspirations of the Masterplan for the Sidgwick Site and give new coherence to the diverse architectural styles surrounding.
John Neve, University of Cambridge


A focus on passive environmental design underpins the building’s BREEAM Excellent rating.

The building maximises the benefits of passive solar design using the exposed concrete soffits for thermal mass and simple, user-friendly environmental controls.

The building is largely naturally ventilated, with night-time cooling in most spaces and only localised mechanical ventilation and cooling. A closed-loop ground source heat pump meets the majority of the space heating and cooling load and further reduces CO2 emissions.

The University is delighted with the way in which their sustainability agenda has been met. Internal spaces are pleasant places to use and this is largely due to the design of natural daylighting and ventilation. Unsolicited commendation has been received from building users and the wider University.
John Neve, University of Cambridge

Our Team

Project Team

  • Client: University of Cambridge
  • Project Management: Cyril Sweett
  • Cost Planning: Aecom
  • Structural Engineer: Ramboll
  • Services Engineer: Hoare Lea
  • Acoustician: Hoare Lea
  • Fire Engineer: Hoare Lea
  • Contractor: R G Carter
  • Photography: Alan Williams


  • Commendation: Civic Trust Awards
  • Commendation: Cambridge Design and Construction Awards – Public Realm
  • Shortlisted: Brick Awards