New London Architecture

New Museums Site, Cambridge

Under Construction

The aim of the masterplan for New Museums Site in Cambridge was to correct decades of ad hoc growth to create a new urban campus within the city's historic core. Encouraging collaboration was key.
Knowledge Networks: London and the Ox-Cam Arc

Knowledge Networks: London and the Ox-Cam Arc

How do historic city centre university campuses and buildings meet the demands of today’s diverse students and teaching staff? Equally as important, how do they open out to the public and contribute to city life rather than simply looking inward?

These are the questions LDA Design grappled with when developing a new masterplan for the University of Cambridge’s renowned science campus, New Museums Site, situated in the heart of the city’s historic core.

Before modern laboratories existed, science was taught in museums through the study of models and specimens, which is how New Museums Site came by its name.

Since those early days, it has become a powerhouse of life-changing scientific breakthroughs from splitting the atom to Watson and Crick’s discovery of DNA.

The masterplan challenge was to correct decades of ad hoc growth and poor-quality additions to create a new urban campus within Cambridge’s Conservation Area.

Encouraging greater interdisciplinary collaboration, enhancing student wellbeing, offering more flexible teaching space, improved access to museums and streamlining city-wide services were key drivers.

The overarching aim was to optimise usability and connectivity within the University and the city, but with a design quality that reflects the site’s heritage, location and the University’s global standing. Specific requirements included providing new student administration services; centralised facilities including libraries and amenities; and flexible research and academic learning space for departments and institutions moving into the site. The process involved working collaboratively with numerous organisations and the University Estate department to develop a masterplan that realised the ambitions of all, securing a new connection between the University and the city.

The masterplan provides a clear sense of place, combining modern facilities with historic buildings in a carefully orchestrated plan for repurposing and redevelopment. 

The re are opportunity to create new public realm right in the heart of a historic city centre allowed for four inviting new courtyards in the New Museums Site, opening up a part of Cambridge previously closed off to the public and improving connectivity to the wider city.

LDA Design adopted a radical approach by increasing permeability across the site and proposing the removal and reconfiguration of several buildings in the core of the site.

Interventions included opening up the Crick and Watson building by ‘punching through’ to connect to the market square, increasing public and student access. Our proposals mean that university staff, students and the public can mix comfortably.

Early phases have already been completed. The Brutalist David Attenborough Building, originally by Arup, has been reimagined by Nicholas Hare Architects. This has been joined by the stunning Student Services Centre by Bennetts Associates, which reworks an Arts and Crafts building to co-locate student support functions previously scattered across the city. The Centre features an enduring materials palette of brick, concrete and timber; its proportions relate beautifully to the neighbouring historic architecture. This phase has also delivered new public realm and the new connection through the Crick and Watson building to secure cross-city movement.

‘The design process required the reimagining of an historic city centre asset for new uses that few initially saw as a compelling opportunity. We delivered a fundamental shift in thinking and ambition supported by the university Project Board to establish a masterplan for a wonderful interdisciplinary and knowledge-based working environment fit for this globally significant university. The heritage, academic and organisational challenges were significant, requiring understanding, careful articulation of ideas and trust to be built to unlock potential. We have enabled the delivery of improved connectivity and the reorganisation of buildings and space for all to enjoy.’
Alister Kratt, Project Director, LDA Design

Project information


Under Construction


* N/A Outside of London


1900 sq m

Estimated completion

December 2022


14 Pembroke St, Cambridge CB2 3QY, UK

Team Credits

Landscape Architect

LDA Design


Bennetts Associates



Listed by

LDA Design

Last updated on


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