Shortlist announced for The Cambridge to Oxford Connection: Ideas Competition

Four teams will now develop detailed concepts for one of the UK’s leading growth regions

17 NIC Competition Shortlist Image

© Images courtesy of Alamy Stock Photo, individual credits as follows (left to right, top to bottom): Dave Porter, Robert Stainforth, Julian Eales, Mark Pink, A.P.S. (UK), Cultura Creative (RF), Robert Stainforth, geophoto, Chris Deeney, David CC

  • This two-stage competition focuses on integrating placemaking with infrastructure in one of the UK’s leading growth regions
  • Four multi-disciplinary teams will now develop detailed concepts appropriate for the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor
  • Shortlist features creative collaborations and a mixture of established and emerging talent
  • Jury of thought-leaders in infrastructure, economics, design and placemaking selected four finalists and awarded two honourable mentions from 58 concepts submitted anonymously at Stage One

The National Infrastructure Commission and Malcolm Reading Consultants today [22 August 2017] announced the shortlist for The Cambridge to Oxford Connection: Ideas Competition. This two-stage competition is seeking inspirational yet realisable visions for the future of development within the arc encompassing four of the UK’s fastest-growing and most productive centres: Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Oxford.

The free-to-enter competition launched on 30 June 2017 and invited entries from broad multi-disciplinary teams made up of urban designers; architects; planning, policy and community specialists; landscape designers; development economists; and others with local knowledge and general insight. Fifty-eight teams from the UK and further afield entered at the first stage, anonymously submitting emerging concepts focused on a chosen form of development – ranging from the intensification of existing urban areas to new autonomous settlements – along with separate details on the composition of their team.

The high-profile jury of thought-leaders in infrastructure, economics, design and placemaking, chaired by Bridget Rosewell (Commissioner for the National Infrastructure Commission), judged the emerging concepts and team composition and selected a shortlist. For full details of the competition jury please see the Notes to Editors below.

The four shortlisted teams – all UK-based – feature creative, multi-disciplinary collaborations and a mixture of established practices and emerging talent. The shortlisted teams were led by the following practices (in alphabetical order):

  • Barton Willmore
  • Fletcher Priest Architects
  • Mae
  • Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design

The jury also wished to convey its appreciation for the distinctive thinking evident in a further two submissions, and honourable mentions were awarded to the teams led by:

  • O&H Properties
  • OMMX

The shortlisted teams will each receive an honorarium of £10,000 to develop their initial first-stage submissions into design concepts for development typologies appropriate to the corridor. They will be asked to consider existing, planned or proposed infrastructure and how to integrate this with development to create sustainable and liveable places.

The competition jury will meet again in October to review the second-stage submissions, interview the shortlist and select a winner of the competition. The winner is expected to be announced in early November.

Bridget Rosewell, Commissioner for the National Infrastructure Commission and Competition Jury Chair, said:

‘The Commission and the jury were delighted with the quality and detail of submissions to the competition, and we would like to thank all those who offered their ideas and energies. The shortlisted teams produced particularly imaginative and stimulating responses to the first-stage brief and we look forward to seeing how their ideas and visions develop.
‘At the second stage, we will be looking for proposals that are rooted in their context and understand the local character, environment and landscape. We have asked competitors to consider how places will be integrated with infrastructure, but above all, we want to see what the proposals will mean for the lives of the people living and working in the corridor.’

Lord Andrew Adonis, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission and Competition Jury Member, added:

‘Getting development right in the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor is vital for prosperity in the region and the UK at large. In order to maintain and build on the area’s economic success, we need to foster attractive and well-connected places that people want to live in.

‘The challenge is urgent, but the 58 submissions to our ideas competition have shown there is a wealth of innovative thinking out there. This initiative has clearly resonated with a wide range of people, and will continue to do so as we enter the competition’s second stage.’

Malcolm Reading, Competition Organiser, said:

‘The Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor is one of the fastest-growing and productive regions of the UK, but there are also significant pressures – on housing, transport, connectivity, and much else – which call for imaginative, forward-thinking solutions from a broad spectrum of expertise.
‘In throwing open this opportunity to the widest range of talent, the National Infrastructure Commission has secured a diverse shortlist and demonstrated its openness to new thinking from practices with different perspectives within the design community.’

The Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor stretches over approximately 130 miles around the north and west of London’s green belt, encompassing Daventry and Wellingborough to the north and bounded to the south by Luton, Stevenage and the Aylesbury Vale. The region is home to 3.3 million people and hosts some of the country’s most successful cities, as well as world-leading universities, knowledge-intensive high-tech firms and highly-skilled workers. Altogether, an estimated 419,000 people across the corridor are employed in the knowledge economy.

Presently, the corridor does not function as a single joined-up economic zone. Rather Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Oxford operate as distinct city economies, each positioned on different radial routes around 50-70 miles from London. The area is experiencing significant housing and transport pressures: the scarcity of suitable and affordable homes and difficulties in travelling within and between cities. These constraints are becoming obstacles to attracting and retaining talent and inevitably putting a break on economic growth.

The National Infrastructure Commission – as the United Kingdom’s leading independent voice on infrastructure policy and strategy and a key adviser to government – has recommended that the government implements the next phase of the highly-anticipated East West Rail project and the planned Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, both of which are set to transform connectivity within this part of England.

A Final Report from the Commission to government in late 2017 will present its findings on maximising the potential of the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor as a single, knowledge-intensive cluster. The four finalists’ proposals from The Cambridge to Oxford Connection: Ideas Competition – fully credited to the competitors – will be published alongside the Commission’s Final Report.