North West Cambridge Development

A major new urban extension to NW Cambridge, comprising a new district and extension to the City, centred around a mixed academic and urban community. £130m (Phase 1)


Lot 1: Wilkinson Eyre, with Mole Architects
Lot 2: Stanton Williams Architects
Lot 3: Mecanoo
Lot 4: Cottrell Vermeulen with Sarah Wigglesworth Architects and AOC
Lot 5: RH Partnership
Lot 7: MUMA
Lot 8: Maccreanor Lavington with Witherford Watson Mann
Lot 9: Alison Brooks Architects
Lot A: Aecom
Lot B: Townshend Landscape Architects


Effectively this was ten competitions in one, to find architects for the various building Lots in Phase 1, as well as landscape architects for two landscape Lots. The purpose of the competition was to find organisations with whom the University and its master planner, Aecom, could develop design ideas through a collaborative process: it was not a competition to create designs for each Lot.

This was an open competition, organised around competitive interviews. A total of 340 submissions were received from 158 different practices located across Europe, with around 40 to 50 for each of the architectural Lots and around 30 for the landscape Lots. Up to six practices were shortlisted and interviewed for each Lot.

Our involvement

  • Designing the right competitive process
  • Researching and identifying potential competitors to alert to the competition
  • Advertising the competition in print and on-line media
  • Setting up a web site for the competition, as an interface with potential competitors
  • Writing the competition rules
  • Writing the competition brief
  • 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
  • Liaising with the University’s procurement team to ensure a compliant process
  • Advising on and then managing the scoring/evaluation procedures
  • Arranging and facilitate interviews and presentations
  • Maintaining confidentiality
  • Creating an audit trail
  • Assisting with press and media enquiries and coverage
  • Competition administration
  • Debriefing and follow up

"Caroline brought outstanding clarity of communication and rigour in all her dealings with both the client team and the 350 architects from around the world who expressed interest in being involved in the project. At all times, Caroline maintained the highest possible standards of professionalism, helping to secure both the client’s interest in devising and managing fair judging criteria, appropriate to the scope and role sought – and in ensuring that architects were not over-committed in their submission and interview requirements. 

Caroline’s efforts have provided the University with an unparalleled oversight of the architectural profession at all scales of practice, leading to the appointment of a truly outstanding group of collaborating architects."

— Jonathan Rose, Masterplan Design Principal for NW Cambridge, Aecom


  • This was a very large, complex, international and high profile competition that, once announced, was very much in the public eye.
  • The client wanted an open competition to allow all-comers to compete.
  • The competition was widely advertised to attract international as well as national and local firms.
  • While the University was the client for the competition the potential users of the project were various and included individual Colleges, the local community whose interests were represented by the local council, as well as retail and school operators.
  • The University had a strong sustainability agenda, which was woven into the competition brief.
  • The University was looking to appoint high quality designers, capable of creating something pioneering and new, with whom they could develop innovative and clever designs for a complex multifaceted brief.
  • An important aspect of this competition was to attract proposals from the very best teams, to ensure that the University was given a choice between the most interesting and capable practices.
  • The University put as much emphasis on creating places as it did on creating architecture.
  • The competition involved a rigorous procurement route dictated in part by the University’s own methodologies and rules, which are in turn based on the OJEU processes.
  • The University is an educational institution and we were involved in managing the competition through a complex approval process involving many different stakeholders and presentations to senior decision makers.
  • The timescale for the competition was fast and we were expected to manage the process effectively and with the minimal amount of fuss.