Proctor & Matthews Architects has won planning permission for a heritage centre made out of shipping containers at the 10,000-home new town of Northstowe, which is under construction in Cambridgeshire

The 106m2 building will showcase artefacts discovered during archaeological excavations of the former airfield site and the simultaneous A14 upgrade by National Highways.

Proctor & Matthews completed a modular 620m2 base for government housing agency Homes England on a neighbouring plot in 2019, and has also been working the development’s 406-home second phase.

It said the new heritage centre would have a ‘distinct identity, influenced by local architecture’ and ‘embody the core design values of Northstowe’, which include innovative prefabrication techniques and passive environmental sustainability measures.

Proctor & Matthews said the black corrugated elevations of the centre referenced Homes England’s neighbouring Northstowe House base and the vernacular of Cambridgeshire black barns. It said the structure’s courtyard elevations would be lined with timber to provide a soft and natural finish, while an external covered corridor would feature a timber-trussed façade that ‘loosely’ resembled a cross-section of a Short Sterling plane wing. The aircraft were once stationed at RAF Oakington, as the site used to be known.

The centre will also feature a large, sliding hangar door on to the landscaped courtyard and ‘lofty’ internal spaces that will house an adaptable internal display area that runs the length of the building.

Proctor & Matthews associate Harrison Symonds said the heritage centre would provide a hub for the emerging Northstowe and Longstanton communities.

‘Together with our recently completed flexible work and exhibition space for Homes England, the centre will begin to create a civic focus for the emerging new town centre,’ he said.

Proctor & Matthews said the building would adopt adaptive reuse strategies and could potentially be relocated in the future. Construction is due to begin later this month for completion in the autumn.

Once complete, the heritage centre will feature finds from the Northstowe and A14 excavations that range from prehistoric megafauna to the lost mediaeval villages of Huntingdon, and Roman and Saxon settlements.

The centre will also display items from RAF Oakington that are currently stored locally.