The two-stage competition is seeking inspirational yet realisable visions for the future of development within the 130-mile Oxford-to-Cambridge growth corridor - a centre for the UK's 'knowledge economy'.
The corridor includes four of the UK's fastest-growing urban centres: Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Oxford which currently operate as separate entities but could function as a cohesive economic zone. However, housing and transport are not currently sufficient to allow the area to reach its full potential, hence the National Infrastructure Commission's action.
The ideas competition launched on 30 June invited entries from broad multidisciplinary teams to include landscape designers and landscape architects and attracted 58 entries. First-stage ideas ranged from the intensification of existing urban areas to new autonomous settlements.
The four shortlisted teams – all UK-based – feature creative, multi-disciplinary collaborations and a mixture of established practices and emerging talent. The shortlisted teams were led by the following practices (in alphabetical order):
- Barton Willmore
- Fletcher Priest Architects
- Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design
The jury, made up of experts in infrastructure, economics, design and placemaking, chaired by Bridget Rosewell, Commissioner for the National Infrastructure Commission, also gave honourable mentions to the teams led by O&H Properties and OMMX.
The shortlisted teams will each receive an honorarium of £10,000 to develop their initial first-stage submissions into design concepts for development typologies appropriate to the corridor. They will be asked to consider existing, planned or proposed infrastructure and how to integrate this with development to create sustainable and liveable places.
The competition jury will meet again in October to review the second-stage submissions, interview the shortlist and select a winner of the competition. The winner is expected to be announced in early November.
Rosewell said: "The Commission and the jury were delighted with the quality and detail of submissions to the competition, and we would like to thank all those who offered their ideas and energies. The shortlisted teams produced particularly imaginative and stimulating responses to the first-stage brief and we look forward to seeing how their ideas and visions develop.
"At the second stage, we will be looking for proposals that are rooted in their context and understand the local character, environment and landscape. We have asked competitors to consider how places will be integrated with infrastructure, but above all, we want to see what the proposals will mean for the lives of the people living and working in the corridor."
Fellow jury member and National Infrastructure Commission chair Lord Andrew Adonis added: "Getting development right in the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor is vital for prosperity in the region and the UK at large. In order to maintain and build on the area’s economic success, we need to foster attractive and well-connected places that people want to live in.
"The challenge is urgent, but the 58 submissions to our ideas competition have shown there is a wealth of innovative thinking out there. This initiative has clearly resonated with a wide range of people, and will continue to do so as we enter the competition’s second stage.’"
A Final Report from the Commission to Government in late 2017 will present its findings on maximising the potential of the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor as a single, knowledge-intensive cluster. The four finalists’ proposals from The Cambridge to Oxford Connection: Ideas Competition – fully credited to the competitors – will be published alongside the Commission’s Final Report.