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Department of Architecture



Cambridge University Department of Architecture is holding a one-week long, Joint Urban Design Charrette with College of Environmental Design of University of California, Berkeley.  From Cambridge, all MPhil and PhD students may apply to 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 attendance is voluntary and is not a part of any course requirement.  The charrette attendees will have in-depth field visits at prominent London development sites, and 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 650 hectare OPDC aims to develop a whole new centre and community for west London, through leveraging unprecedented investment in 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 will focus on urban design that is related to infrastructure investment and environmental planning at a real site. This is a challenging undertaking and the charrette will be using briefing provided by the GLA and their consultants, including specific programmes for jobs, dwellings, facilities and services. The design options are tested through studio work, which explore radically different forms, layouts, street patterns and neighbourhood fabrics.  This includes the alternative options such as suburban business parks, high density-high rise urban blocks, and hitherto rarely adopted perimeter-layout, high density-medium rise urban streets.  The exploration of the options will be underpinned by the long tradition of research on urban land use and built form in Cambridge, and research on urban fabric in UC Berkeley.

Students will be able to work in teams playing to the strengths of their different disciplines and produce planning, urban design and building proposals. Studies will 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.

Old Oak Common Site and its comparison for size against well-known London precincts (Source of image: ODPC, 2016)

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, with co-Investigators from all three universities.

The charrette is led by

UC Berkeley

Prof Peter Bosselmann

GASD co-Investigator


Prof John Ellis

GASD co-Investigator

Cambridge University

Dr Ying Jin

GASD co-Investigator


Dr Tania Sharmin

GASD Postdoc Fellow


The charrette programme

The main charrette activities will take place during 26-31 March 2017.  The charrette programme by day will be available shortly.



Greater London is expected to grow from 8.5 million to over 10 million by mid-century. New sustainable urban frameworks are needed to accommodate growth and protect the quality of life. The city region is experiencing severe shortages of affordable housing and social equity pressures of dislocation through gentrification of former working class neighbourhoods.


Precedents – urban development projects

The charrette will have briefings with explorations of relevant case studies of sustainable urbanism. These include regeneration of former brownfield sites such as King’s Cross Central in London, Olympic developments in Barcelona, Vancouver as well as at the London Olympic Park Legacy sites, examples of green urbanism such as Hammarby Sjostad in Stockholm and Bo01 in Malmo, Sweden, the residential block patterns in new communities such as Ijberg and the Eastern Harbour developments in Amsterdam, unbuilt proposals such as those for Parc de la Villette in Paris, and historic areas such as London’s Great Estates and Portland’s Pearl District.


Charrette site: Old Oak Common, London

The charrette studio will develop urban design schemes for the Old Oak Common site in West London. This is a brownfield site crisscrossed by railway lines and the location for a major transit hub with a new station on the Elizabeth Line and the future High Speed 2 rail terminal. Old Oak Common is a real project currently being progressed by the Greater London Authority (GLA) as London’s newest Mayoral Development Corporation (MDC), with a detailed programme to build over 10,000 new housing units and business floorspace for 5m sq ft.  Past MDCs in London include the Docklands and the 2012 Olympic Legacy sites and they have transformed deeply deprived and contaminated areas, as well as London’s skyline.

Underlying the Old Oak Common development is London’s Elizabeth Line and the planned High Speed 2 Terminal.  We will explore the city planning proposals related to London’s Elizabeth Line (hitherto known as CrossRail).  It is currently the largest transport infrastructure project in Europe, a new 75 mile long east / west rail line across London including 13 miles of new tunnelling. It will not only connect Heathrow Airport with places like the City of London and Canary Wharf but also serve some of the most deprived parts of London creating opportunities for new housing and employment.  High Speed 2 will provide relief for the crowded West Coast Main Line and bring cities like Birmingham and Manchester into commuting timeframes of London.

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