A new home for Gates Cambridge

  • May 3, 2024
A new home for Gates Cambridge

Gates Cambridge's new home - Bill Gates Sr. House - is unveiled today and brings together Scholars and Trust staff

The launch of Bill Gates Sr House is a landmark event for Gates Cambridge and marks a new chapter for our community.

Eilis Ferran

The Gates Cambridge Trust is officially opening Bill Gates Sr. House, a multi-million-pound, state-of-the-art, sustainable building in central Cambridge, at an event today [3rd May] which includes an oral history film of the University of Cambridge’s prestigious scholarship programme.

The building is a tribute to Bill Gates Sr.’s seminal role in establishing the Gates Cambridge Scholarships, the University of Cambridge’s leading scholarship programme for international postgraduate students, which foregrounds both academic brilliance and improving the lives of others. The programme was established through a $210 million donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000.

For the first time in the programme’s history the building will bring Gates Cambridge staff and scholars together in one place. The beautifully restored building includes living walls and an original artwork by Jill Dryer. 

The seven-year project involved the conversion and refurbishment of existing University premises to provide a modern working space for the Trust’s scholars and staff, creating a new home for the Trust in Cambridge, with sustainability at its centre.

History

The idea for a Gates House – a space for scholars to ‘participate in the intellectual, social and other activities of or connected with the University’ – was included in the original Deed of the Trust, but after an initial search for a suitable building, it was decided instead to establish a Gates Cambridge Scholars Room in the University Centre. 

When that site came up for redevelopment in 2017, Professor Barry Everitt, the Provost of Gates Cambridge at the time, started the job of looking for a new home and settled on 17 Mill Lane. Working with Regent Construction, RLP Surveyors and Tim Marshall Design, he and Jade Tran, Director of Finance at the Gates Cambridge Trust, set out the vision and helped to secure a 125-year lease on the building. Dr Tran has been overseeing the project since Professor Everitt’s term as Provost ended in September 2022.  

The formal opening of the House on 3rd May with Gates Cambridge Trustees and Scholars includes the first showing of an oral history film of Gates Cambridge and precedes next year’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of the scholarship programme.

The film brings together all the past Gates Cambridge provosts as well as key figures in its development, from Lord Alec Broers and John McCaffrey, former CEO of Cambridge University Development Office in the US to the new Vice-Chancellor Professor Debbie Prentice. She says: “The Gates Cambridge programme has led to a flowering of talent across disciplines across the world. That’s what’s very special about it.” 

It was McCaffrey who first met with Bill Gates Sr. and sowed the first seeds for the programme that Bill Gates Sr. called his favourite of all the grants the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has ever made.

A landmark event

Eilis Ferran, Provost of the Gates Cambridge Trust, said: “The launch of Bill Gates Sr House is a landmark event for Gates Cambridge and marks a new chapter for our community. We are absolutely thrilled to be able to benefit from this wonderful new space. I would like to thank, in particular, Jade Tran for her tireless work and commitment to managing this project and turning the Trust’s vision into such a beautiful reality.” 

Dr Jade Tran, Director of Finance of the Gates Cambridge Trust, said: “I’m delighted to see the successful completion of this challenging project, which involved the Trust working closely with multiple contractors, the University Estates Division and colleagues who work in and around Mill Lane and Pitt Court. The old administrative offices that existed before have been transformed into a vibrant and collaborative space for the Trust and Scholars.”

Lee Haskins from RLP Surveyors spoke of the need to put sustainability at the heart of the project and the site-specific challenges and complexities, such as access to the site via a central courtyard and surrounding buildings remaining in use for the duration of the works which were surmounted by working closely with all stakeholders. 

He said: “Environmental considerations were high on the agenda for the Trust, which can always be challenging when working with the limitations of an existing building. The incorporation of an air source heat pump, photovoltaic panels, upgraded insulation to the external walls, and the replacement of all existing windows with new, were just some of the measures adopted to minimise the carbon footprint of the new Gates area.” 

David Sheldon, Director of Regent Construction, said:It was a pleasure to have been awarded the construction works for the Gates Cambridge Trust Project. The management of this construction project involved a multifaceted approach, aimed at orchestrating the various works to ensure timely completion with quality and sustainable standards. At its core, the project required meticulous planning, effective communication between all the teams involved, and adept problem-solving to be able to complete the project successfully. Overall, I feel the project has been a complete success and a project we at Regent Construction are extremely proud to have been part of. The seamless finishes of the Gates Cambridge Trust Headquarters are a testament to the Client, Designers, and the Regent Team.”

Interior designer Tim Marshall from Tim Marshall Design stated: “Working closely with staff and scholars as well as the larger project team, we set about delivering a modern environment that users would want to spend time in. Sustainability was at the heart of our decision-making and our aim was to create dynamic spaces that would be welcoming, calming and inspiring, whilst versatile enough to be used for screenings, events and large or small gatherings. 

“Whilst the project gave us opportunities to provide a variety of different spaces, particular favourites for us would be the Common room and adjacent quiet study room with connected meeting room. In these areas we were able to get creative with colour, wall panelling, slatted oak ceilings rafts and bespoke furniture. These spaces are well served by large windows, so we were also able to include a number of large indoor plants which further enhanced the interiors.” 

*Top photo: Jill Dryer’s artwork hanging in Bill Gates Sr. House.

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