University of Cambridge’s first co-working hub set to open its doors to students, staff and public
The opening of a new £40million hub on the University’s of Cambridge’s site in the west of the city signals the transformation of the research campus to create a new innovation district.
The West Hub, which opens on Tuesday, April 26, will sit at the heart of the emerging West Cambridge Innovation District and offers a place to meet and socialise, and it marks a new university approach to learning spaces and shared-used resources.
With state-of-the-art buildings and cutting-edge labs, the district will be a world-leading home for research and enterprise, incorporating pedestrianised plazas, central gardens, lakes and urban orchards.
The co-working hub - open to all university departments and the public - will enable academics, researchers, students, businesses and the wider community to share, learn and collaborate through the flexible spaces it offers. The three-storey development, which has a shop, cafeteria and the site’s first bar, is on JJ Thomson Avenue and will be open from 8am to 9pm Monday to Friday.
Anna Steeden, the hub’s operations manager, said: “The West Hub is a pioneering development, social in nature and designed from the ground floor up with people in mind. It is a place of collaboration and co-working, designed to foster connectivity and serendipitous ‘collisions’ that spark new ideas. Its flexibility means its spaces can be configured to meet the daily needs of all users and outside, its amenities will bring a new vibrancy to the site.”
The hub will provide additional learning space and will house teaching for the university’s landmark foundation year programme, which will welcome its first cohort of students in October 2022.
Community access will be actively encouraged - the hub’s two main entrances are across from one another to provide a pedestrian route so people can use the facilities as they pass though.
The ground-floor caféteria and bar will open into green space and are close to a pedestrian and cycle path. The upper floors incorporate a library service, media lab, multi-use spaces, learning resource areas, and workspaces ranging from informal open areas to individual study pods. Learning spaces and meeting rooms are available to businesses and the community outside of core teaching times for social and networking events and exhibitions.
Professor Andy Neely, pro-vice-chancellor for enterprise and business relations, said: “The launch of the West Hub has created a new heart for the West Cambridge Innovation District, and represents a new way of bringing people together and providing co-working spaces, for university departments, research collaborations, businesses and residents.
“It also represents the start of the site’s transformation into a more outward-facing campus, to ‘put the science on show’, nurture the entrepreneurial strengths of the Cambridge Cluster, and take the university’s world-leading research and technology to the next level.”
The hub is a low-energy building which has scored an ‘excellent’ BREEAM (Building Research Establishment (BRE) Environmental Assessment Method) rating, and has passive and active design measures to reduce energy demand.
James Tatham, director of architects Jestico + Whiles, said: “We approached the design by focusing on the essential human need for connectivity and collaboration. As such, we were able to deploy our specialist skills in sectors that are often disparate – research, education, co-working and cafeteria and bar design – to create a truly holistic, blended use scheme that responds dynamically to the changing needs of the university year.”
Vice-chancellor Professor Stephen Toope said: “The West Hub will connect people from different departments of the university and beyond. I am particularly thrilled this state-of-the art building will host teaching for the Cambridge Foundation Year, which will welcome its first intake of students at the start of the next academic year. It is fitting that such a new and innovative building should host such a new and innovative programme.”
The West Cambridge Innovation District scheme was approved by Cambridge City Council in 2021, subject to a section 106 agreement.