The David Attenborough Building

This brutalist icon, designed by Arup Associates in the 1960s has been restored and re-invented as a cross-disciplinary conservation campus and sustainability exemplar.

It provides a vibrant centre for the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, a partnership between the University of Cambridge and leading internationally-focused biodiversity conservation organisations and transforms the world-class academic collections of the Museum of Zoology into an exciting destination for the public.

Some sympathetic but striking architectural interventions adapt the building to its new purpose and an innovative sustainability strategy delivers a low energy outcome whilst preserving the integrity of the original Sir Philip Dowson design.

Click here to link to the article on this project in Building Magazine.

Nicholas Hare Architects have been inspirational to work with. They have consulted end users widely but with a clear focus, championed new ideas, fostered collaborative working and built enthusiasm and ownership for the project.
Dr Mike Rands, Director, Cambridge Conservation Initiative


The balance of space types with its rich and varied mix of meeting-space and different working environments was developed with users to enhance the collaborative potential of the building and has been extremely successful. The light and airy interiors have made the campus a popular and enjoyable place to work.

Nicholas Hare Architects’ refurbished David Attenborough Building preserves the integrity of the original design while ensuring the radical remodelling works well for its new users – becoming an exemplar of sustainability was something it took in its stride.
Amanda Birch, Building Magazine


The project pioneered a bespoke Sustainability Framework which reached beyond BREEAM by setting ambitious project specific targets. These included biodiversity and educational outreach as well as more typical objectives such as carbon reduction. Targets were agreed at a series of stakeholder workshops and now form part of a post-occupancy operational action plan.

This is a first-rate example of how the integrity of a modernist building can be retained, and its future protected, by a clear headed conversion to new, highly appropriate uses.
RIBA East judging panel
The new space is having a psychological impact on its occupants. Everyone feels an inch taller.
Professor Andrew Balmford, Department of Zoology

Our Team

Project Team

  • Client: University of Cambridge
  • Project Planning: AECOM
  • Cost Planning: AECOM
  • Structural Engineers: AECOM
  • Services Engineer: BuroHappold
  • Sustainability Consultant: BuroHappold
  • Biodiversity & Green Infrastructure: The Green Infrastructure Consultancy and Robert Bray Associates
  • Contractor: Kier Construction
  • Photographer: Alan Williams


  • Winner: RIBA National Award
  • Winner: RIBA East Award
  • Winner: RIBA East Conservation Award
  • Winner: AJ Retrofit Award, Offices (2,000m2-10,000m2)
  • Winner: RIBA Journal Schüco Excellence Awards, Best Education Project
  • Winner: AJ Specification Award (Doors & Windows) with Schüco
  • Winner: Cambridge Design and Construction Awards
  • Highly Commended: RICS East of England Awards, Design in Innovation
  • Finalist: Building Awards
  • Shortlisted: AJ Specification Awards
  • Shortlisted: British Construction Industry Awards