Brick Buildings We Love: Dorothy Garrod Building Cambridge

August 4th 2021

Brick Buildings We Love: Dorothy Garrod Building

Here at Brickhunter we love great brick buildings.

In the past we've looked at famous structures of historical significance.

But we wouldn't want you to think it was just old buildings that use brick. Oh no.

Brick is in vogue, with modern architects and building contractors using it for both the style it exudes and the sustainable properties and craftsmanship you can't get with much else.

There are many great examples of modern architecture using brick in new and exciting ways.

One that stood out in recent years was the Dorothy Garrod building, Newnham College at the University of Cambridge.

It's a multi-purpose residential building at the heart of the college which complements and contrasts with the historic buildings around it.

Such was its achievement that it won awards from the Royal Institute of British Architecture and the Brick Awards too.

Here we look at why it's great and how brick played a central role.

A Handmade Home In The Heart Of Cambridge

Designed by architectural firm Walters and Cohen, in collaboration with contractor SDC, this 4-storey complex was built primarily as a residential block for students of the historic women's only Newnham College.

A key focus of the project was the use of durable materials and working closely and collaboratively with the supply chain.\ We're chuffed that they involved independent British handmade brick manufacturers to create this classic look. We look at the bricks in more detail below.

Sitting amidst the existing buildings of the college, the Dorothy Garrod building acts as a link between this social space and the surrounding streets of Cambridge.

Inside is a café, conference facility, meeting rooms, break-out spaces, a gym and rooftop pavilion. The upper floors largely consist of stylish en-suite bedrooms and social spaces.

The wrap around design of the building creates an intimate courtyard and open space which is actually inspired by the Fibonacci sequence.

An Award-Winning Use Of Brick

Back in 2019, the Dorothy Garrod building won a collection of awards, recognising its architectural achievement.

The RIBA National Award 2019 was probably the most prestigious of the lot and it also won in a number of regional categories too.

It was also recognised by the Brick Development Association's Brick Awards and was crowned the supreme winner as well as the winner for the Medium Housing and Craftsmanship categories.

Why did it win?

According to Brick Awards 2019 head judge, Hillary Satchwell, the building 'is a strongly urban and welcoming response to the surrounding streets... and at the same time is an amazing work of carefully considered and expressive brick design and craftsmanship.'

All that to say, it manages to both contrast and complement its surroundings.

The combination of large glass panels and modern brick bonds doesn't depart from the use of rustic handmade bricks in a blend which is in keeping with the local area.

From an architectural standpoint it serves an invaluable purpose in the college and creates an attractive and functional living space.

What Bricks Have Been Used In This Building?

We've mentioned above that the bricks used were handmade. In fact, there were a number of specific bricks used to create the bespoke Newnham Sidgwick blend in the finished brickwork.

These bricks included the Northcot Pumstead and Lynham Red. They create a light red rustic aesthetic. Northcot are a popular handmade brick manufacturer.

In total there were 165,000 handmade bricks provided for the project and 12 different special shapes were also used, totalling 92,000 bricks.

The specials were used in the intricate hit-and-miss panelling and other areas of detailing throughout the façade.

So, what's hit-and-miss?

Brick Features Of The Dorothy Garrod Building

Well, we're glad you asked.

One of the distinguishing features of the building is the interesting hit-and-miss and dogtooth brickwork which weaves in and out of the standard brickwork.

You might think this name would suggest a haphazard way of laying brick but we can assure you it isn't.

This technique which is increasingly seen in modern brick buildings involves laying bricks in a more extreme, detached bond. The gaps in between each brick create a perforated look in the wall from a distance.

Here, the bricks are also laid in a dogtooth fashion, meaning these parts of the wall have a zigzag alternating pattern.

Not only does this give off a distinctive look but the building also has an added dynamic at night when light seeps through the gaps from inside.

Other bonds used in the rest of the façade are Stretcher and English bonds.

A Historically Significant Setting

The building has added historical significance due to it being within Newnham College.

Established in 1871, the college is the oldest women's college at the University of Cambridge and was established at a time when women were not allowed to attend the university.

It's still a women's college today, ushering in a new generation of female academics and professionals. This contemporary building provides a much-needed space for them to live and socialise.

The name is, unsurprisingly, also a nod to history, with Dorothy Garrod being the first female professor at the University of Cambridge.

Set in 17 acres of landscaped grounds and a 10-minute walk from the centre of Cambridge it makes for an unrivalled centre of learning.

What Are The Brick Awards?

With the RIBA National Award being one of the leading prizes in British architecture we think it's great that a brick building would be recognised in this way.

Of course, that award was for its architectural achievement as a whole but it was also recognised by the Brick Awards, which focuses primarily on how brick has been used effectively.

The awards, run by the Brick Development Association, have been running for 45 years and have a number of categories, including small to large housing developments and commercial and educational buildings. The awards celebrate the best examples of clay brick in buildings.  

Of course, like a lot of organisations they have seen a disruption to their schedule this year but they are back in 2021.

Check them out here and keep an eye out for future winners.

Feeling Inspired?

Like what you see and feel like you might want to emulate this style in your own building project?

Well, you can. (Although if you're going for something as radical as a hit-and-miss/dogtooth panel it's essential you get some professionals on board).

What we can do, is point you in the right direction and provide the bricks. We work with a wide range of suppliers including manufacturers of handmade bricks, so if you want a similar blend to this building, get in touch and we'll see what we can do.