Wilkins’ Building Refurbishment
King’s College Cambridge

Location: Cambridge
Status: Completed
Area: 250 sqm

Whilst awaiting funding for the larger Chetwynd Court Redevelopment project, the College wished to improve accessibility and enhance student facilities by refurbishing the College Bar on the ground floor of the 1828 Wilkins’ Building that faces the Front Court flanked by the renowned King’s Chapel and Gibbs’ Building. 

Multiple steps hampered access into the Grade I building, requiring wheelchair users to detour around the West Range building, through the back of the College kitchen and around the Chetwynd Court. A 1960’s refurbishment raised half of the floor, further impacting accessibility.

Considering the sensitivity of the Front Court, the entrance solution was achieved in part by gradually sloping the stone path over the external steps, (whilst avoiding the need for handrails and additional ramps). Once inside the Inner Portal, a recessed platform lift with receding steps rises to provide wheelchair access directly into the building. Inside the Bar, the raised concrete floor was returned to its original level.

A survey, undertaken by the students, documenting the use, quality and ambience of the existing Bar, informed the design for a brighter and flexible social space for day and evening use. The front bar is a minimalist design with most equipment concealed. Large wooden wall panels slide open to reveal the back bar when in use.

In collaboration with Abell Nepp, artists/craftsmen Timorous Beasties integrated King’s heritage themes into bespoke furniture and artwork. Although largely destroyed in earlier refurbishments, portions of original cornices were discovered during demolition and have been revealed to provide a further glimpse into the building’s heritage.

Eventually, when the larger auditorium project is realised, the College Bar will be relocated to facilitate the reinstatement of the original grand staircase with the remaining space becoming an important reception room.

Design Team:
Abell Nepp (Architect|Interiors|Lead Consultant), Webb Yates (Structural), Skelly & Couch (MEP), Savills (Planning), Turleys (Heritage), Gillieron Scott Consulting (Acoustic), Faithful & Gould (Cost|CDM), King’s College (Principal Contractor)