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Mud scale model of Cambridge University site complete

image copyrightDave Webb
image captionVolunteers constructing a cob "house", part of a model of Cambridge University's housing development

Artists and volunteers have created a mud and straw scale model of a £1bn Cambridge University development.

The "buildings", made from material known as cob, represent the first phase of the University's North West development.

The 90m-long model was built on the site from top soil left over from archaeological excavations of the area.

Construction of the actual buildings including 1,300 homes, a school and shops will begin later this year.

image copyrightCAU
image captionThe site in the first week of construction
image copyrightCAU
image captionBy the fifth week, most of the scale model buildings had been constructed

The public artwork was created in six weeks by artists Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie to give people an idea of what the finished development will look like.

The project continued despite some very wet weather which made the cob "too wet" and "knocked a few corners off some of the big structures" requiring repairs, according to Ms Guthrie.

image copyrightDave Webb
image captionCob is a mixture of mud, straw and water and is a traditional building material in the West Country
image copyrightNina Pope
image captionThe project is funded by Section 106 developer money from Cambridge University

The artists were assisted by about 60 volunteers, who were taught the techniques of working with cob during workshops.

Ms Guthrie said most of the volunteers were from the local area, but some came from further afield, including a couple who travelled from Ireland.

The project was inspired by archaeological excavations undertaken on the site prior to any building work beginning.

image copyrightNina Pope
image captionMost of the buildings are around one metre (3ft 3in) high

Ms Guthrie said "physically working with the soil from holes excavated by the archaeologists... couldn't be more different to going to a lecture on the archaeology of the site".

"You're handling the very mud and soil and materials that was inhabited by people living here thousands of years ago," she said.

The scale model has been created on land not scheduled for building and Ms Guthrie hopes it will be remain on the site for many years.

Outline planning permission for the full development, which will include 3,000 homes and accommodation for 2,000 postgraduate students together with research and community facilities, was granted in February last year.

image copyrightCambridge University
image captionThe 370-acre (150 hectares) development is being built on Cambridge University farmland between Huntingdon Road, Madingley Road and the M11

Related Topics

  • Archaeology
  • Cambridge
  • University of Cambridge

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