Newnham College, Cambridge

This competition addressed the first of three projects: a new building to provide first class accommodation for 60 graduates.


The competition was won by Walters & Cohen

The other three shortlisted practices were:
Allies and Morrison
Niall McLaughlin Architects
RH Partnership


This invited competition, to find architect-led design teams with whom the College could develop proposals, was formatted as a competitive interview. No specific designs were requested.

Starting with a long list of around 40 practices offered by Colander, the College looked in more detail at 20 firms. These were considered against a set of agreed criteria and eight practices were invited to submit an expression of interest. Members of the College visited each of the eight practices in their offices and selected four, which were invited to complete a tender document, respond to a philosophical design challenge and attend an interview. Following interviews, references were taken and a winner appointed.

The College ran a parallel selection process, which piggy-backed on this architectural competition, to identify structural and services engineers as well as landscape architect.

Our involvement

  • Designing the right competitive process
  • Researching and identifying potential competitors to invite
  • Helping the client reach its shortlist of invited competitors
  • Writing the competition rules
  • Planning the competition timetable and budget to meet client requirements
  • Acting as point of contact for the competition
  • Ensuring a clear and ethical process
  • Briefing the jury panel
  • Briefing competitors
  • Managing the competitive process
  • Arranging visits to architects' offices
  • Advising on and then managing the scoring/evaluation procedures
  • Arranging and facilitating interviews and presentations
  • Taking references
  • Creating an audit trail
  • Competition administration
  • Debriefing and follow up

"Caroline Cole steered us very successfully through a highly-charged process of choosing an architect to rebuild and expand part of Newnham College Cambridge. The field of possible architects was initially large, and there were some very strongly held views among the Fellowship. Yet we arrived, through a very careful process designed and led by Caroline, at a very satisfactory outcome."

— Professor Dame Carol Black, Principal, Newnham College Cambridge


  • The client wanted to attract interest from a variety of architectural firms and, not necessarily those with a track record of working with universities.
  • The client wanted to select from some of the very best established and up-and-coming practitioners.
  • The client put as much emphasis on creating places for people as it did on creating a built environment.
  • In the tradition of Cambridge colleges, the new building will be expected to last for hundreds of years.
  • The client was especially interested in the relationship that would develop with its chosen architect.
  • The new building needed to be sensitive to its historic setting, and the beautiful landscape.
  • The very nature of the client’s organisation meant that the selection panel included both academics and estates management.