Colleges need constant maintenance if they are to survive, and this goes beyond simply repairing the fabric. The demands on a college change. People work in different ways, different activities come to the fore, and new opportunities present themselves. We felt that the time had come to think about things in a more holistic way, since decisions in one area typically affect decisions in others. So we employed Niall McLaughlin, to help us draft a masterplan.
Many issues were considered including: (i) The advent of the laptop means that students’ work habits have changed: the stark distinction between working space (the library) and social space (the JCR; the MCR) has broken down as people work wherever they feel comfortable and there is power and wifi. Likewise there is a need for social spaces that bridge the gap between the JCR and students’ individual rooms. (ii) The archive is in need of new premises as the body of materials grows; and the library, handsome though it is, needs better ventilation and some reorganisation to accommodate changing uses and users. (iii) Fitzwilliam House, which had been leased to the University, is being returned to the College, providing a great deal of new space. (iv) The areas around Cosin Court would benefit from more thought and care.
Some projects would be fairly straightforward. Moving the Maintenance Department to a new site behind St Peter’s Terrace would free up archive and study space in the basement of the Library, and allow for the creation of a new court behind the Hostel. The area behind Tunwell’s Court cries out for a garden that would then provide access to Fitzwilliam House, and to the student houses in Fitzwilliam Street via their back doors. Bedrooms within existing student housing could be converted into social-cum-study spaces.
Other projects would take more time, money and discussion. We could reconfigure the library in a major way; we could build a new gym beyond the William Stone building. We could bury the 1950s kitchen, revealing the mediaeval wall that it currently obscures, and reopen the original archway through into Gisborne Court. We could reconfigure the hostel into more usable space, and build out behind, perhaps reducing the size of the car park. We could build a coffee-house, either somewhere on the original site, or on the east side of Trumpington Street.