Designed by 5th Studio, the Creative Exchange is publicly funded building providing shared workspaces aimed at nurturing Cambridgeshire’s creative workers and innovators. Located in St. Neots, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom, the Creative Exchange was completed in winter 2008. The building accommodates around 14 different companies (perhaps 50 people) in a studio environment. The design took a tight budget and schedule of accommodation and sought to create a building that engaged with the park – a remarkable and inspiring resource. The ground floor provides a concierge and an adaptable space for exhibitions, training, meetings and events. The first floor is occupied by a shared studio space, and the two floors above are workspaces for individual companies. Generous hallways on each floor allow a shared space to encourage cross-fertilisation of ideas. A working garden on the roof offers further space for interaction between the people working in the building, as well as dramatic views overlooking the park.
By stacking the building on four storeys we were able to avoid corridors, pressing circulation into use as usable space. A compressed plan helps to ensure that nowhere is far from a window and that the internal spaces are animated by light through the day. We avoided the bland finishes of spec office space in favour of high floor to ceiling heights and exposed primary materials. The building is robust, anticipating and welcoming the inhabitation and clutter of its various residents. The building is thought of as being like a redefined English country house in the way it relates to the parkland around it and in its scale. Built with an exposed concrete frame and upper two levels that cantilever out beyond the frame of the building, the building is intended to differentiate itself from the school and housing around it. The building is naturally ventilated with incoming air being drawn through an ‘earth tube’ buried alongside the avenue.