Matthew Cousins follows the yellow brick road to the diverse Accordia housing development in Cambridge - but is stopped in his tracks by a soulless Libeskind building in Holloway

Accordia Living in Cambridge was designed by a team of architects including Feilden Clegg Bradley, Alison Brooks Architects and Macreanor Lavington Architects. It is a good example of new housing with a well-considered variety of housing and apartment types all designed within a well-defined palette of materials.

There are wide open landscaped spaces, and a judicious balance of pedestrian lanes, mews streets with shared communal spaces, car parking and public bicycle stands. The houses have been constructed with distinctive yellow bricks, high ceilings and rows of chimneys. There is a mix of scale and form surrounded by green spaces. It is imaginative, distinctive, well executed and provides a diverse urban identity.

The Libeskind building, London Metropolitan University, on the other hand, stands on Holloway Road like a stainless steel elephant with little regard for context or scale. The interlocking volumes are bold and daring but they do not fit well within the existing university building campus and Holloway Road. The materials chosen are bland and soulless and the panels are ill-fitting and stained. The detailing is poorly executed, in particular at the small entrance door which is now no longer used.

The university was seeking an architectural statement, but what it got was an arrogant, characterless building of little architectural merit.


Accordia Living Cambridge

Source: Tim Crocker

Accordia Living opened in 2008. Designers included Feilden Clegg Bradley, Alison Brooks Architects and Macreanor Lavington Architects. The development is made up of 203 one and two-bedroom apartments and three and four-bedroom townhouses. It was shortlisted for the 2008 RIBA Stirling Prize.



Wonders and blunders

London Metropolitan University’s Graduate Centre opened in 2004 and remains Daniel Libeskind’s only building in the capital. Libeskind claims that the 10,000ft, £3m building was inspired by the constellation of Orion and it exhibits his signature deconstructionist style. Despite winning an RIBA Award in 2004, urban legend purports that a 999 call received during construction claimed the building had collapsed.

Matthew Cousins is an architect and author of Design Quality in New Housing: Learning from the Netherlands and The Architect’s Legal Pocket Book