UTC Cambridge\

Bridging the gap between school and workplace

UTC Cambridge is a centre of excellence for Biomedical and Environmental Science aimed at students aged 14 to 19. It is the ultimate flexible teaching environment.

The challenge

From the outset, UTC Cambridge wanted an innovative building to inspire its pupils and prepare them for the real world. The UTC takes precedent from both industry and higher education to provide a ‘grown up’ learning environment and social space.

The challenge was to create an innovative school building to support a new way of learning within the constraints of a very tight timescale and budget.

“The exquisite building design allows the culture of UTC Cambridge to be aligned with a scientific workplace – fostering collaboration, investigation and innovation.”

Melanie Radford, Headteacher

The big idea

The design creates a sense of space and light, combining open volumes and light wells in open plan areas with smaller intimate spaces and work rooms creating a variety of flexible use spaces ideally suited to supporting a new way of learning.

The layout is simple and fully accessible throughout. Social learning spaces on the ground floor, including a Learning Resource Centre, lecture hall and canteen, are joined by more traditional classrooms and science labs on the first floor. The top floor ‘superlab’ reflects the UTC’s specialisms providing bespoke and highly flexible laboratory space for up to 350 students in a setting quite different from traditional laboratory spaces for this age group.

Working collaboratively with the local planning department, the building was clad in Corten to reflect the learning innovation taking place inside while providing a solidity and texture to the linear façade, which will change and develop over the years.

We delivered the school in collaboration with BAM Construction Ltd. Our team won the competition at Easter 2013; planning permission was achieved a month ahead of programme in July 2013, and the UTC Cambridge opened its doors to the first intake of pupils on schedule in September 2014.

“I am a big fan of Hawkins\Brown and their approach and the UTC project was a superb case of how to achieve something rather special on a budget.”

Gary Woolley, UTC

An artist's perspective

The Council’s 1% for Art policy provided an opportunity to commission original artwork. Each piece makes reference to Cambridge’s contribution to biomedical research. Jo Chapman’s artwork on the façade looks at the make up of viruses which are etched onto the Cor-Ten and glass. The images on the Cor-Ten have been applied while the steel oxides and show the chemical process. Emily Campbell designed a bespoke carpet based on DNA sequencing patterns that leads visitors through the building to the lecture theatre and Canteen.

Working from the inside out

A strong graphic identity was created internally with charcoal greys defining the internal structure and setting off the bespoke designed carpet. This forms a backdrop for the bright yellow and orange feature elements. The warm tones of the Cor-Ten are referenced in the multiple welcome and information desks. The design comes together to create a strong grown up learning environment allowing for small private spaces for individual quiet learning.

  • Project Details
  • Sustainability

Project Summary

  • Project name: UTC Cambridge
  • Location: Cambridge, UK
  • Sector: Education & Research
  • Service: Working with Artists
  • Value: £12m
  • Type: New build
  • Client: BAM Construction
  • Client: UTC Cambridge Trust
  • Status: Complete
  • Completion date: 2014


  • Civic Trust Awards 2016 - Regional - Finalist
  • RIBA Awards 2015 - East Regional Award - Shortlisted


The building is designed to maximise its passive sustainable design credentials. It is orientated East/ West to limit solar gains and maximise passive solar shading. Façade-optimised, high-performance solar control glazing further limits uncontrolled heat gain and ensures any beneficial heat in the winter months is trapped in the building.

The ventilation systems minimise energy in-use for what would normally be considered as a high consumption building type (laboratory). The entire system is controlled and monitored by the BMS to ensure that the only user input required to change modes is the teacher activating a fume cupboard.

Even with an extremely tight budget we were able to design and deliver a great building on time and budget.

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