West Court, Jesus College - Detail

October 2018

Text Detail
Images Nick Kane

With the conversion of the Rank Building in Cambridge, Jesus College has gained a more representative appearance on the street along the southern edge of the campus. Slender oak sections lend the building an elegance that allows one to forget the unwieldy proportions of the original complex, dating from 1973. At the western end, a tower now marks the new entrance to the historic West Court.

On both the street and courtyard faces, concrete piers with brown brick cladding form the primary load-bearing structure. Set between wooden frames, they lend the facade a vertical relief and are the sole elements of the existing building that are still visible, whereby both faces have quite different appearances. Seen through the pergolas of the upper balconies, the southern facade seems taller than it was previously and now emphasizes the presence of the new structure in the street space. The facade is divided from top to bottom into increasingly narrow vertical bays. At the closed ground floor level, these are filled with stone strips. The north face opens on to the planted West Court with two-storey-high framed elements, each containing two closed ventilation panels with a large area of glazing between. Desktops have been fitted in the window recesses of the rooms, while along the corridors on the two lower floors, seating benches have been integrated. The top two storeys are set back half a metre, thereby taking up the alignment of the neighbouring building.

To accommodate the two-storey auditorium, with seating for 180 persons, the entire soffit over the ground floor had to be bro- ken out. The new central corridor, serving the guest rooms on the upper levels, cuts through the cross-walls that extend over the full depth of the building. They are supported above the auditorium by steel beams 84 cm deep – a huge structural feat that one would not in the least suspect from any side of the building.

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