Heong Gallery, Downing College

Conversion of former stables to public art gallery


Working together with the College and architects Caruso St John, Beacon successfully negotiated a design supported by English Heritage and Cambridge City Council to convert the former master's stables to a new public art gallery. The idea for the gallery came about as a result of the requirement for public art as part of the student accommodation permission. The art gallery is part of a wider project that will see the creation of a new college court with the adjacent Parker's House converted to student accommodation.

The existing building was built in the early C20 as the master's stables off the earlier C18 garden walls that form part of William Wilkins's original design for the College. The master's stables - now maintenance shed - is therefore considered to be a curtilage listed structure. Our first task was to establish exactly what the significance of the structure is considered to be, including its relationship within the wider College campus and the contribution it makes to the character and appearance of the conservation area. Historic photos, plans and maps were consulted to draw together an understanding of the development of the site and the place of the stable building within this wider picture.

The team then worked together with the City Council through a series of pre-application meetings to develop a proposal that would satisfy the public art requirement whilst preserve and enhance the character and appearance of the conservation area and heritage significance of the listed building, and of course deliver a high quality space appropriate for its new status as a college court.

The benefits of the gallery are twofold in providing the College with a unique asset and delivering public art for the City in an original way. The scheme promises to be an exciting new development within the College that will increase public access to this site of national heritage significance in central Cambridge. Beacon have acted for the College for some years, securing consent for student accommodation in Regent Street and works to the listed buildings as well as making representations to the Local Plan on their behalf.


Planning and Listed Building Consent was granted in May 2014. The gallery opened in February 2016 and won a RIBA East Award 2017.

ClientDowning College
AppointedApril 2013
Services providedAdvice   Application  
BP teamJenny Page  
ArchitectCaruso St John
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