The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Photo Historic England/James O Davies

High-tech Schlumberger Centre in Cambridge listed at Grade II*

The Twentieth Century Society has welcomed the decision to give Grade II* listing to Sir Michael Hopkins’ landmark Schlumberger Gould Research Centre in Cambridge.

Catherine Croft, Director of C20 Society, said: “We are delighted to see SGRC listed at grade II*.  It fully deserves this high grade listing as an innovative and influential example of High-Tech design, by an extremely interesting architect, more of whom’ s work is sure to be listed in future years.    It always reminds me of a pert baked Alaska, dominating the flat outskirts of Cambridge.   I visited it under construction when I was an architecture student nearby (at Cambridge University), and was exhilarated and impressed.  It’s proved to be robust as well as pioneering and has a great sculptural form as well as innovative use of materials.”

The Schlumberger Gould Research Centre is a significant building of the early 1980s with innovative features and characteristics of the British High-Tech Movement. It was built for the oil industry research company Schlumberger, for testing new oil drilling techniques and is a ground-breaking industrial building, incorporating new materials, technology and design.

Schlumberger Gould is a forward-thinking oil industry explorer that required a cutting-edge research building which encouraged interaction and the exchange of ideas. The Schlumberger Gould Research Centre reflects this through glazed partitioning, a central meeting area in the Winter Garden and open plan meeting places, in addition to its glass-fibre fabric roof which diffuses light and gives the feeling of airiness and space. The building has also survived remarkably intact, significantly contributing to its high degree of special interest.

 Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch said: “This landmark building is an important example of the brilliant Michael Hopkins’ early work, which challenged conventions with its innovative use of space and new materials. It stands as a testament to the High-Tech Movement of the 1980s and this listing will ensure the building can be preserved for future generations and remains a highlight of Cambridge architecture.”

Roger Bowdler, Director of Listing for Historic England said: “The Schlumberger Gould Research Centre is an extremely important piece of High-Tech architecture by one of the leading British architects of recent times. It is of more than special interest as a flexible and highly prestigious building which promoted the company and reflected the advanced design and technology of its products.”

Sir Michael Hopkins of Hopkins Architects said: “I am thrilled that our Schlumberger building is listed. Thinking back, it brings to mind two key players in the development of the design. Firstly, Bernard Vivet, Director of Research, who wanted the testing operations to be the heart of the building, rather than relegating these potentially dirty and noisy operations to the far end of the site. Secondly, Peter Studdert, Planning Officer, who encouraged a joyous roof, knowing it would be seen on the skyline from west Cambridge, together with King’s College Chapel and the University Library. Its appearance today, 30 years on, is a tribute to Schlumberger’s continuing care and upkeep.”

 Simon Bittleston, Schlumberger Vice President of Research said: “The Schlumberger Gould Research Centre, which hosts multidisciplinary teams of scientists and technicians demonstrates the Company’s long-term commitment to research and technology innovation. Over the years, the Centre has benefited from strong collaborative links with Cambridge University.”