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Joint Cambridge-Berkeley Urban Design Charette 2018

Cambridge University Department of Architecture is holding a one-week long, Joint Urban Design Workshop in the ‘Charrette’ format with College of Environmental Design of University of California, Berkeley.  The Cambridge MPhil and PhD students may join the charrette. From Berkeley, this is open to students from the Master of Urban Design (MUD) and Master of City Planning programmes as part of their CP248 studio.

The charrette attendees have had field visits at prominent London development sites guided by those who are closely involved in planning, designing or researching the projects.  They also have time to work closely with a group of leading academics and practitioners from the UK and US through briefing, design proposals and crit for one week. The charrette is on the planning and design of the Old Oak Common site which is part of the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC).  The OPDC aims to develop a whole new centre and community on the Old Oak Common site for west London, through leveraging unprecedented investment in two major rail infrastructure projects (UK High Speed 2 and the Elizabeth Line underground services). The site is likely to be the most significant in London in the next twenty years.

The charrette continues the work undertaken in 2017 studying the implications of the plans for the Old Oak Common site. The 2017 charrette asked several basic questions about the project and its scale of development:

  1. Understanding the implications of the proposed 24,000 residential units and 55,000 jobs outlined by the London Plan in terms of density and building types.
  2. The possibility of building on a portion of Wormwood Scrubs in exchange for creating a new open space within Old Oak Common.
  3. Creating an integrated transit hub by combining the West London and North London Overground lines into the new Crossrail/HS2 station.
  4. Matching the pattern of development of a typical London district such as Bloomsbury in terms of scale and density

The charrette is focused on urban design that is related to infrastructure investment and environmental planning at a real site. This is a challenging undertaking and the charrette has had briefing provided by the OPDC/GLA, their masterplanning consultants, and other specialists working on the site on a variety of topics, including jobs, dwellings, facilities, services, cultural heritage, urban character and implications of high urban density. The design options are tested through studio work, which explores different forms, layouts, street patterns and neighbourhood fabrics.  This includes the perimeter layout with high density low-to-mid-rise buildings, linking back to the research on urban land use and built form in Cambridge since Leslie Martin and Lionel March.

The charrette is a voluntary, extra-curricular activity. Students work in teams playing to the strengths of their different disciplines and produce planning, urban design and building proposals. Studies include urban structures and fabric, street and block patterns, land use and building typologies, open space and park designs as well as proposals for smart design that adapts the city to the digital age.

The charrette leads

The charrette is supported by the Cambridge-Berkeley-NUS Global Alliance Smart Design (GASD) project which is led by Prof Koen Steemers as Principal Investigator.

The charrette is led by

UC Berkeley

John Ellis

GASD co-Investigator


Harrison Fraker

Head of the Master of Urban Design Programme at UC Berkeley

Cambridge University

Minna Sunnika-Blank

Director of Graduate Studies and Course Director, MPhil in Architectural and Urban Studies


Tania Sharmin

GASD Postdoc Fellow


Ying Jin

GASD co-Investigator and Joint Charrette Coordinator


The charrette programme

The main charrette activities take place during 23-29 March 2018, with pre-charrette preparations and post-charrette reporting.

Feb 2018

Pre-charrette sessions in Cambridge and UC Berkeley, students working with their respective charrette leads, with


Skype calls to plan and review on-going design and research work

22-23 March

Cambridge students setting up the charrette rooms; preparations

Friday 23 March

UC Berkeley team arriving in Cambridge

Saturday 24 March

Cambridge and Berkeley teams to meet; review of existing work; internal briefing, logistics

Site visits to Accordia Neighbourhood, Cambridge Leisure Park, North West Cambridge and Centre for Mathematics

Sunday 25 March

Site visits in London with briefing by Jonathan Rose and charrette leads, including The Collective co-living project at Old Oak Common, Old Oak Common Site, Alexandra Road Estate, London Olympic Park, and King’s Cross Central

Monday 26 March

Briefing lectures by charrette leads and

Eleanor Fawcett, OPDC Director of Design

Alex Reitman, OPDC Masterplanning Project Manager

Kevin Logan, Lead Designer for OOK housing, MaccreanorLavington

Tues 27 March  

Briefing lecture on character and density in urban design by Jane Manning, Allies and Morrison

Charrette studio

Weds 28 March

Charrette studio

Thurs 29th

10am-3.00 pm - Review of Charrette Studio outputs

In the Lecture Room, Dept of Architecture

1 Scroope Terrace, Cambridge, CB2 1PX

Friday 30 March

Follow up by the team leads on next steps and planning for the charrette report; holiday for students

Saturday 31st

Berkeley team visiting London

Sunday 1 April

UC Berkeley team fly back to California.




Production of charrette report