Cambridge Union Society

Client Cambridge Union Society
Type Refurbishment
Use Debating and student centre
Date 2021
Photos Richard Fraser Photography

Refurbishment of the Grade II listed Cambridge Union Society has the dual purpose of restoring the core of the 149 year old building designed by Architect, Waterhouse, and in line with the debating society’s belief in free speech, open the building up.

The restoration tackled the major subsidence and structural irregularities, removed the 1930s concrete façade and the reintroduced lost original Victorian features.

New entrances on Round Church Street and Park Street provide light and modern interventions to the brick buildings, increasing the Society’s public visibility and hopefully encouraging the general public into the new bar/bistro, the Orator. Internal works improved entrance and egress to assist the flow of the 450 potential attendees at debates, increase accessibility and flexibility of use, and potentially enable Footlights to reuse their original home.

Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent was initially granted in December 2016.  Subsequently a new modified scheme received unanimous approval from Planning Committee members in January 2018, together with the new complex for Trinity College on the adjacent site.  The main construction phase took place between November 2018 and January 2021 and during the unique COVID-19 environment. Currently design works are underway to assist Footlights’ return.