The Cambridge to Oxford Connection: Ideas Competition Launches

Teams to creatively link new infrastructure with sustainable placemaking in the UK’s leading growth corridor

20 Cam to Ox Competition Launch Image web

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.

The National Infrastructure Commission and Malcolm Reading Consultants today [30 June 2017] launched an ideas competition that calls for forward-thinking, imaginative proposals to integrate sustainable placemaking with development and new infrastructure. The focus for the competition is the arc encompassing four of the UK’s fastest-growing and most productive centres: Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Oxford.

The free-to-enter, two-stage contest is aimed at broad multidisciplinary teams of urban designers; architects; planning, policy, and community specialists; landscape designers; development economists; and others with local knowledge and general insight. Submissions from international teams and students are welcome.

Set up in 2015, the National Infrastructure Commission is the United Kingdom’s leading independent voice on infrastructure policy and strategy, a key adviser to government, and benefits from strong cross-party support. The Commission has recommended that 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.

Through the competition, the Commission will be seeking visionary ideas for development typologies across the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor, which includes other important centres such as Northampton. Submissions should consider how to provide the homes the area needs: high quality places that integrate the proposed infrastructure and enhance the identity of the corridor as a single knowledge-intensive cluster, while working with its distinctive environmental and cultural character.

Full details of the competition, which is run by Malcolm Reading Consultants, including team and submission requirements and the detailed brief, are available on the competition website.

Teams are asked to submit an emerging concept focused on a chosen form of development – ranging from the intensification of existing urban areas to new autonomous settlements – as well as details on the composition of their collaborative teams, if relevant. The emerging concepts will be judged anonymously by a panel drawn from a range of specialisms and including Lord Andrew Adonis, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission; and two National Infrastructure Commissioners, Bridget Rosewell OBE, former Chief Economic Adviser to the Greater London Authority; and Professor Sadie Morgan, Founding Director of dRMM Architects, with further members to be announced later in the process. The top four teams will be given an honorarium of £10,000 to develop their initial submission.

Lord Adonis, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, said:

‘The economic potential of the four cities of Oxford, Cambridge, Northampton and Milton Keynes is huge, offering real benefits to the success and prosperity of the country as a whole.
‘But the area needs to adapt and change if it has any chance of achieving this, of attracting the brightest and best and of competing on the world stage.
‘Today, I’m calling on leaders in architecture, economics, policy-making and planning, as well as local residents, to help shape that future, and put forward ideas that will make this growth corridor an attractive place to live and work for generations to come.’

Professor Sadie Morgan, National Infrastructure Commissioner and Founding Director of dRMM Architects, said:

‘From the dreaming spires of Oxford to punts along the River Cam, the growth corridor has so much to o er those looking to live and work there. We need to ensure that continues.
‘This is more than just good design – this is about creating a vibrant and attractive community that will stand the test of time and support the future development and prosperity of a unique part of the country. I look forward to seeing the ideas that are put forward.’

Malcolm Reading, Competition Organiser, said:

‘Transport brings prosperity and activity and creates the conditions for growth, which are all welcome outcomes. The competition offers a rare opportunity to imagine new and enlarged communities, to shape their character. This is all about creating inspirational places that encourage social and creative exchange within a high quality environment.’

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 area has a population of 3.3 million people and is approximately 3,900 square miles in area.

Towns and cities across the corridor are amongst the most successful and fastest growing in the UK. The corridor has a concentration of businesses in the scientific research and development, life sciences, pharmaceuticals, high-tech manufacturing, performance technology and motorsport sectors. 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 suffering with 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 retaining talent and inevitably putting a break on economic growth.

Interested teams will need to read the Search Statement on the competition website before submitting their emerging concept, team details and registration information via email (using templates provided on the website). The deadline for entries is 14:00 BST 3 August 2017. At the second stage of the competition, four shortlisted teams will receive additional briefing and progress their concepts into creative visions, developed on a specific location within the corridor.

The final designs produced by the shortlist will be used in the Commission’s Report to government in late 2017 and will be fully credited to the authors. The teams may also be given a continuing role as the wider project develops.

The stage two deadline for shortlisted teams is expected to be in late September, and the winner announced in early November.