Sturton Street, Cambridge

Sturton Street, Cambridge

Client: private

Location: Cambridge

Contract value: confidential

Service: Full Architectural service

Accessibility is now a core aspect of an architects work. Ensuring projects meet both the legal requirements for accessibility and the needs of individual clients is key to the success of a project. We create buildings, places, and spaces that work better for everyone by making inclusion a key part of our work.

Sturton Street is a four-bed terrace in Cambridge. The client needed to make the house and garden accessible for a wheelchair user. We prepared plans and in consultation with an occupational therapist agreed with the family the best way of adapting the property to meet their changing needs.

We converted one of the main downstairs rooms into a bedroom with a small extension to provide a fully accessible wet room. The entrance was adapted to give level access from the street through the house and out onto a new area of decking with a ramp leading down into the garden.

As well as the accessibility aspects of the project, the family took the opportunity to improve the aspect of the houses onto the garden and add a small side extension to create a farmhouse style kitchen with dining table and sofa space.

This was one of those projects were you feel you make a difference to a family’s life beyond the everyday work of an architect.

Wimpole Visitors Centre

Client: National Trust
Location: Wimpole, United Kingdom
Practice: Caroe Architecture
Role: Senior Designer
Budget: Confidential
Consultant Team:
Engineers – William Firebrace Partnership
Quantity Surveyors – Sherriff Tiplady Associates
Accessibility Consultants – IDACS
Traffic Modelling – Crowd Dynamics
Landscape Architects – Dominic Cole Landscape Architects
Acoustics – Cass Allan
Archaeologists – Oxford Archaeology
Ecological consultants – National Trust

Wimpole Hall is a National Trust property in Cambridgeshire. Caroe Ltd carried out a feasibility study to relocate the existing car park outside of the Capability Brown landscape. Working with a multidisciplinary team and the trusts regional project management and curatorial teams, we developed a proposal due for completion in spring 2020. The project involved a new visitor welcome building, car park for 1600 cars, services building, new path through a scheduled monument, listed parkland and SSSI, removal of existing car park and restoration of listed parkland, as well as the replacement of the main sewerage system and pumping station for estate, a new substation and grid connection.
As well as involvement in master planning, landscape and infrastructure design, as Lead Designer for Caroe Architecture Jim was primarily responsible for the design of the new National Trust Welcome Building, designed to welcome over 400k visitors a year.
The Welcome Building is a gateway from the productive agricultural landscape of Cambridgeshire into the designed parkland of Wimpole. It is deliberately humble in its materiality and form. The proposal respects the careful deployment of buildings and paths in the slow but ever-evolving landscape that makes Wimpole a delight for so many.
The proposed new buildings are conceived as a set to be understood together. There is not a dominant hierarchy of buildings but a simple and well judged response to the operational needs of the National Trust, the need for an intuitive and understated approach and entrance for the visitor, respecting both the designed landscape beyond and productive landscape in which this new building is located.
Working in such a complex and significant environment requires an understanding of the many and competing constraints. Within these constraints, the project is found. Through carful consultation with the design team, client and relevant statutory authorities is then developed into the final design and taken on site.
Every organisation has its own decision-making structures and internal or external funding requirements, understanding and working with these is as important to the success of the project as any of the heritage, environmental or statutory constraints.
There is a deep satisfaction in working on a scheme that navigates competing and complex demands, and delivers a simple and appropriate architectural design that meets the brief and the needs of the client and users for many years to come.

Thorn Farm, Worcestershire

Project Data

Practice: Scott Wilson Cambridge novated to CAR Ltd
Lead Designer/Contract Administrator: Jim Ross
Structural Engineer:  Phil Cooper
CAD Technition: Sam Hatch
Services Engineer: Thames Renewable
Specification Consultant: Brian Murphy
Land Survey: Husts Land Surveys, GEA Soil Engineers
Archaeology Services: Napthan Archaeology
Tax Consultant: David Brown
Contract: JCT ICD 05
Procurement: Negotiated Tender
Contractor : Prosser Brothers
Contract Value: £1.8m
RIBA Stages:  2-7 (B-L)

Project description:

Now a family home, Margery Thorn Farm is a 1650s Grade 2 Listed, timber frame house and Stone Barn set in 7 acres of pasture. The building was abandoned and exposed to the elements for 25 years. The site had no electricity water or telephone.

The brief was to preserve the historic fabric of the building and design additional accommodation to provide our client with an energy-efficient and comfortable family home. The Listed building was repaired and insulated with naturally breathable materials and finished in lime, we found and restored a brick bread oven during construction.

The project was the first opportunity I had to work on a full NBS, I engaged the help of Brian Murphy of GreenSpec to write the NBS with me. The project had complex services components. With its own sewerage plant and stormwater attenuation system integrated with the landscape, including a Ha Ha and natural swimming pond. The proposal included a ground source heat pump, a biomass boiler, and solar thermal, and buildings ventilated with a mechanical heat recovery unit.

Working with a family to taylor there home to their particular needs and way of life, whatever the scale of the project, is often a challenge and always a privilege.

Thanks to Cambridge Architectural Research Ltd for the use of the images and informtion. 

K1 Co-housing, Cambridge

Project Data

Client: Cambridge City Council & Cambridge Cohousing Ltd 
Lead Consultant: CAR Ltd
Lead Designer: Jim Ross Car Ltd
Architects Assistant: Emily Partridge CAR ltd
Project Manager: Adam Broadway CAR Ltd
Passive House Consultant: Andy Brown CAR Ltd
Cohousing Consultant: Stephen Hill CAR Ltd
Planning Consultants: Peter Studdert CAR Ltd
Quantity Surveyor: Brenner LLP
Landscape Architect: MARK Projects
Contract Value: Confidential
Procurement: 2 Stage Design and Build
RIBA Stages: A-D
Design and Build Archtects; Mole Ltd, with TOWN and Trivselhus

Building a community

The K1 cohousing project was the UK’s first enabled cohousing scheme. The site, known as K1, is part of the Orchard Park development in North West Cambridge.

CAR Ltd established and enabled the Cohousing group to develop a finical, legal, and internal structure as well as facilitating the development of the design brief for the project. The client briefing study process, which I designed and facilitated formed the basis of the final client brief and provided a foundation for subsequent design stages. With our help Cambridge Cohousing Ltd was set up, to be owned and managed by members who have come together to, “build a place which is beautiful, environmentally, socially and financially sustainable, friendly and fun.” The design for the layout of the built elements creates a series of social spaces of varying scales and characters. The proposal maximized the benefits of natural site resources, sun, rain and existing landscape features, and mitigated against negative conditions such as noise and pollution from the A14.

It was a necessity to have a clear hierarchy of decision making from high level, philosophical, social and decision-making processes, through negotiating the relationship of public and private spaces, community and individual requirements, site choreography, building standards down to look and feel. Workshops provided the group with the tools, knowledge, and confidence to be able to make informed decisions as a group. We ran open days with the group to grow the number involved for the 12 households up to the 26 required to make the project viable.

K1 Cohousing group ‘the group’ was made up of 20+ households who, assisted by CAR Ltd commissioned a construction partner to Design and Build an intentional community of 42 dwellings and a common house, gardens and other shared facilities. The project is now built and occupied, now known as Marmalade Lane, the project has won many awards and I am still in touch with the community and am proud to have played a part its establishment.

Ths project developed an interest in community-led design and an enjoyment in working with complex client groups. Enabling client groups to make informed decisions and leading them through the initial stages of projects to identify key project constraints fosters creative and innovative design responses.

K1 aka Marmalade Lane has won numerous awards. 


Cambridge Museum of Technology

Museum of Technology
Client: Trustees of the Museum of Technology
Location: Cambridge

From time to time Pro bono work can help an organisation get to the stage where they have the confidence to fund raise or engage professionals on a fee earning basis. This work is often rewarding and enjoyable.
The Museum of Technology in Cambridge is a wonderful set of Victorian buildings and were the old sewerage pumping work for the city. Dry waste was burn in the furnaces to drive the turbines that pumped the wet waste out of the city!
The site was falling into disrepair and in order to access funding and open it up to the public the trustees asked us to look at issues and opportunities on the site, including disabled access and a revenue generating café.
Site analysis and understanding of constraints is all part of the work and Architect undertakes. to allow clients to make well informed decisions about how to get best value and public good from their own and public funds.

Gwydir Street #1, Cambridge

Gwydir Street #1,
Location: Cambridge
Client: private
Contract value: confidential

Energy efficiency is core to our approach to architecture. This project, for a family in Cambridge, involved re-ordering of a terrace house to accommodate the changing spatial needs of the client, whilst bringing an old house up to modern standards of energy efficiency.
We seamlessly introduced a heat recovery and ventilation system to remove damp stale air and provide warm fresh air throughout the house. Rainwater was harvested; this is used to as a grey water supply to flush the toilets reducing the burden on Cambridge’s over stretched water aquifer.
The project was finished off with bespoke storage units for the kitchen and living room.
Many projects have been for clients who have raised a family in their home and want to reorder the property to suite their changing needs, reduce running costs, and reduce their impact on climate change.

Gwydir Street #2, Cambridge

Gwydir Street #2,
Location: Cambridge
Client: private
Contract value: confidential

Working with the clients we proposed a sketch scheme to meet there brief for an attic extension, side extension and garden music room, for their terrace house in Cambridge. The project allowed for staging of the works. We secured planning and building control approval, assisted in the appointment of a contractor and two of the three elements of the project built.
The side extension provides a suntrap for morning coffee and the music room a welcome retreat for contemplation and the practice without disturbing the neighbours.
Inspired by a Japanese tearoom, the music room is self-contained. It is timber lined in English grown larch sawn boarding with an oak floor, a mezzanine sleeping level, reading nook, slate lined shower room, roof lights, and bay window with a deep seat from which to watch the birds in the garden. The building is masonry construction, slate-roofed and the front elevation is treated with tared hessian to create a building which in time will recede into the gardens herbaceous planting.

Greenwood Balustrade, London

Client: Natural Shoe Store

Location: Covent Garden, London

Sustainability/Materials/Narrative/Building Control   

In 2001 whilst still a green woodworker, I built a greenwood balustrade for the first Natural Shoe Store in Covent Gardens.  In 2007, the owner contacted me again; he had a new shop and wanted me to build another balustrade. By now, I was as a designer rather than a designer/maker, and the challenges of this project were very different.

Using timber from his own land was important to the owner of the store. He understood the link between the provenance of materials and their impact on both the environment and on the narrative and ethos of his business. The requirement to use non-standard materials in a public shop raised interesting problems, which called for an unorthodox approach in order to meet the statutory requirement for building control.

The loads imposed on the balustrade could be substantial as, both the size of the shop and the opening around the staircase meant that it should be treated as a place of assembly. With limited data for the strength of greenwood, our engineer Phil Cooper produced a set of loading required to meet the requirements of building control. The strength of each piece of green timber is different, each growing in its own way. To prove they were up to the job, on-site, we built a scaffold, loaded each element to double the required strength, and measured its deflection. This was sufficient for Building Control to sign off the works.

In preparation for the project, I spent a weekend felling trees with the client on his farm in Kent, selecting sections of timber in the round of the right form and finish for the balustrade. On the Friday night after felling the trees on the client’s estate, whilst talking about his time as a cobbler in Massachusetts and drinking whiskey, we heard the news that Leeman Brothers Bank had collapsed.

Places, materials people all have stories to tell some personal and some with wider impact. Architecture can and should embed both narrative and knowledge in the very fabric of the work. 

Bull Inn, Barton Mills

Practice: CAR Ltd

Role: Project Director

Value: Confidential

We were approached by the owners of the Bull Inn to undertake a fast Feasibility Study so they could understand the potential for adding an additional story to the South Wing of  the Coaching House, providing staff accommodation and renovating a timber frame barn.

We undertook a measured survey of the site, prepared options and undertook discussions with the planning authorities conservation officer, which were all favourable.

The client was then in a position to be able, to make informed decisions about the long term planning for their business.

1:1 Construction Workshops

Over 10 years  I ran construction workshops with organisations in the UK and abroad.

These short but intense exercises are enjoyable to bring out peoples character and ingenuity.

They give both myself and the student the opportunity to engage 1:1 with material and processes and benefit both in terms of the agency of action and through continuing development of understanding the connection between the drawn and the constructed. The collaboration with industry specialist contributed to knowledge transfer and in some cases has pushed the possibilities of materials and technologies. This thread has continued through my teaching work at Cambridge University.

Research Workshops

2013 Hot Lime Bricks, 5-day post-graduate, UEL with Agenda 21

2013 V&A Museum of Childhood, Willow Exhibition CentrePiece

2012 First Avenue Community Garden, 2-day with Local Volunteers

2012 Willow Dome,  4-day, RSPB Enabling Workshop

2012 Eco-build,  (UEL) 5 day First-year Found Object Machines

2005 Hemp Lime Climbing Form-work, 5-day post, graduate, UEL

2011 Timbrel Vaulting Workshop 10 day post-graduate, UEL

2004 Fabric Formwork and Rammed Earth, 5-day post-graduate, UEL

2004 Fabric Form-work and Stabilised Earth, University of Forestry, Sofia

2003         Fabric Form-work, 5-day post-graduate construction workshop. Material Matters Conference, UEL

Live Sites Cambridge University

Live Sites teaching at Cambridge University

In 2014 I applied for the role of design fellow at Cambridge University and am now in my fifth year teaching on the course. Between 2014-2019, we worked with real clients on real projects. We set groups of students up with organisations who need help with their work.

Each year we found projects that provided students with a broad experience of what architecture can whist ensuring the programme meets the learning outcomes for the course. The projects benefited the organisations directly through the hands-on and design work provided by the students.

Our involvement as a university also enables the client to lever additional resources and support.

As an example, of this practice, we worked with the Cambridge Cyrenians on their allotment site, which they run with and for rough sleepers in Cambridge.  Our students worked with the client group to design and build needed structures. The team designed, developed and delivered the buildings in two months as well as raising over one-third of the budget themselves.

Within the projects, we addressed CDM, costings and fundraising, supply chains, client relationships, professional standards, working with the design team, PR and project management. Each year there is some aspect that has challenged my professional understanding and helped me to grow as an architectural professional. Teaching feeds my design thinking and my ability to learn from others and has had a profound effect on my practice. In turn, experience in practice continually adjusts and feeds into my teaching.

First Year Live Projects

2018-19 A place to Meet, Empty Common Allotments, Cambridge

2017-18 A place to Study, Queens College Cambridge

2016-17 A space to Play, Cambridge University Junior School

2015-16 Growing Spaces, Cyrenians Allotment Project Cambridge

2014-15 Percussive Wall, Cambridge Junction.  

Door Handles – School of Pythagoras

Sometimes it’s the little things that give you most pleasure both in life and work. When Caroe Architecture Ltd was asked to oversee the fitting of new door handles to The School of Pythagoras, the oldest secular building in Cambridge, I was tasked with designing and commissioning these small additions to a very old building.

Before I trained as an architect, I made furniture, one of the companies I made for was Red House Forge then situated in the basements under Spitalfields Market in London.

The design was based upon phi the golden ratio,


I hope over the years the handles feel both satisfying in the hands of those who open the doors and to the eye.

With thanks to Caroe Architecture Ltd for the use of thier images and project information, and to Red House Forge for the forged door handles.