Interview: Heather Topel, North West Cambridge Development

Heather Topel_Project Director_CROP

How to coordinate the delivery of 3,000 homes and community facilities – and keep it all eco-friendly

Some 800 years after it was founded, the University of Cambridge is once again dramatically shaping the built fabric of its city. First time round, the university introduced the colleges that were to become its famous seat of learning, but today it is developing not only new research facilities but also a community centre, children’s nursery, market square, hotel and 3,000 homes. This is the North West Cambridge Development, a new district on the city fringe where town and gown are being integrated by design.

The university’s driver for development is its need to house staff and students in a city afflicted by soaring property prices, but it is delivering with a placemaking vision that targets design quality, sustainability and stewardship, says the university’s project director, Heather Topel. Topel first came to this project in 2006 when, as a director at the project’s masterplanner and planning consultant Aecom, she was involved in early planning discussions. She moved client-side in 2013 when construction of the first phase began. That first phase, called Eddington, is coming to completion but Topel’s work is far from over.


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