Cambridge University


Detail of Kings College roof

The Medieval universities of Oxford and Cambridge appear quite different from their modern counterparts. Principally this is because they only educated churchmen. Thus, Medieval college plans and appearance were based upon monasteries: at the college’s heart was a fine chapel; the accommodation was grouped around a cloister or courtyard and gatehouses controlled access to the college from the outside world. However, being of a residential nature, the colleges also looked to Medieval domestic architecture for inspiration, and, as many were founded in the fifteenth century, they combined castle-style elements with more modern luxuries.

As Cambridge has fewer colleges than Oxford, its colleges tend to be larger. They are also, predominantly, built of brick, for good stone was unavailable locally. The great exception is King’s College Chapel. A royal foundation, the plans and funding were extravagant and fine stone was used. More typical is Jesus College. Its buildings were more modest, and have been a model for university architecture around the world.  

About the online exhibition

'How We Built Britain' is a major collaboration with the BBC


Images in the exhibition are from RIBApix, a growing database dedicated to providing you with exceptional and unique images from the RIBA British Architectural Library's collections.

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