Verdict is in at the Judge's new facility
The Simon Sainsbury Centre at the Cambridge Judge Business School is open for business - and dining
The Simon Sainsbury Centre, the new Cambridge Judge Business School facility, is now very much in use.
Two years in the making, the new building had become essential. Lack of space in the Trumpington Street-facing School, which was opened by the Queen in 1995, meant that 30 per cent of degree programme lectures and 65 per cent of executive education programmes were taking place in other Cambridge locations.
“The off-site lectures mostly took place at Mill Lane,” says Steve Lydall, director of site development, as he shows me round the new site, where the canteen and lecture halls are now in use. “Another thing was that we didn’t have a proper dining room so we weren’t able to do the sort of catering we wanted to do. The Common Room was not enough, we wanted a purpose-built dining facility. We can seat 180 people here.”
The four-storey, 5,000-square-metre project, which cost £32million, was supported in part by a generous donation from the Monument Trust, whose founder Simon Sainsbury was also one of the Business School’s original benefactors. Architects Stanton Williams designed the facility, which comes in off Tennis Court Road, so that it would all be under one roof: the Centre joins the school via a walkway.
“It brings everything together on one site,” says Steve as we walk round the premises, which at one point features three different architectural styles within a few feet – the original 19th century Addenbrooke’s Hospital building, the John Outram design from the mid-1990s, and the Stanton Williams offering. “The new building features two more lecture theatres to add to the other three, four seminar rooms to add to the one at the School, the dining room, and a big open-plan office. We had one before but that wasn’t enough.”
The Fadi Boustany Lecture Theatre on the first floor – named after Mr Boustany, a member of the first MBA class in 1991, who made a donation to the new centre – is innovative as well.
“We modelled it after looking at other centres, and tried to pick the best bits. The design for both the 79-seat lecture theatres drew heavily on the experience of our peer business schools. It was an exercise in understanding what people do, what our clients want out of a space – how much space to have between the rows, what sort of rake. It’s not a just tiered lecture hall, we wanted flexibility so the seating can be reconfigured.”
The chairs swivel round to create an impromptu meeting place for a discussion.
“With the number of people you can get in here, you can know everyone by their name, but that wouldn’t be possible with seating for 160. With free-standing chairs, they turn around, which is why it’s a very low rake – you can have five people talking in a group.”
The design is understated stunning. All the wood is medium European oak. The podium facilities resemble the cockpit of a shuttle. On the second floor, there’s an external terrace. The trees in the courtyard were lifted in by crane. There’s lots of natural light and good views of Downing College across the way.
I’m introduced to Marie-Ann Kyne, the chief operations officer for executive education, who’s responsible for the programmes being delivered. She’s delighted the courses are now under way here.
“We moved in last November,” she says. “The first programme started in January, for a large group of American lawyers. The benefit of having the Centre is that 90 per cent of our programmes can now be run onsite for the first time. We’re slowly introducing our programmes to the building so we can understand the flow from seminar rooms to breakout areas to dining areas to reception. We’ll be at full capacity from March.”
We head up to the third floor, which is the big open-plan office. No walls. There’s quite a few people working on their computers.
The fourth floor is where the single-cell offices for staff and researchers are located. A sign outside one of the doors reads ‘Mark de Rond’. He’s a professor in organisational ethnography who has written books including There is an I in Team and The Last Amateurs: To Hell and Back with the Cambridge Boat Race Crew.
“It’s a very nice space to work in,” says de Rond. “I love the fact that we’re co-located, we can look into each other’s offices and it breathes, it’s light… it’s a very easy office to work in and very customisable.”
It’s a surprise to find de Rond in situ because he’s often overseas. His work sometimes takes him to Afghanistan: in 2011 he spent six weeks at Camp Bastion, the British military base, as part of an ethnographic study. I ask him if he’s had time to go back.
“I do field work from summer to the end of the year,” he replies. “I went back last March to do a PTSD study. That was an amazing experience, it was at the German military base, one of the doctors is treating 100 people a day there.” Learning from Prof de Rond that there is a doctor at the camp treating members of the Taliban for PTSD brought home just how unique some of the studies at Cambridge Judge are.
“This new building is Phase 1 of a two-phase plan,” concluded Steve. “Phase 2 involves digging up the forecourt in front of the building (the Trumpington Street entrance) for a new library and new rooms, but it’s all rather hypothetical and at this stage we haven’t submitted a planning application. The point being that not all our needs are satisfied by Phase 1.”
The Cambridge Judge Business School is one of the wonders of the city for all sorts of reasons. With the Simon Sainsbury Centre now open, it now boasts a wonderful new space to work in.