Cambridge will always be my home, even if I haven’t lived there in quite some time. It’s the town I was born in, where I took my first steps and where I started to become the person I am today. When I was a teen looking to move to the big city, the quiet and academic feel of Cambridge may have seemed almost provincial… but age is the best of life’s teachers. These days, I’m living between two hectic metropolises, London and Los Angeles, with a busy work life and a small child, and I crave the peace of a smaller town. Cambridge seems to be calling me, and I keep coming back to my hometown and reconnecting with it.
I spent last Christmas back there, blissfully accompanied by some of my favorite people in the world. I was surrounded by family and friends in a beautiful house, as we connected through food and kind words, as so many generations have before us. A winter wonderland surrounded us in the deceptively peaceful Cambridge surroundings. The city is a little quieter during the holidays, as many students are back home with their families, yet Cambridge remains a meeting point of cultures from all over the world.
Cambridge is a beautiful place to grow up in, and the university is betting on future generations to choose the town as a place to settle down. The uni partnered up with Hill, one of the biggest house builders in the UK, to create sustainable homes for the next generation of Cambridge dwellers. I’ve written about this project before, which is called Athena, but I keep circling back to its wonderful premise. It’s such a modern concept in a town well known for its ancient buildings and customs, and such a wonderful prospect for people looking to set up a home in Cambridge.
Athena is lifetime homes and apartments inspired by the city’s historic character, built to award-winning designs. Part of an ambitious project by the University of Cambridge to deliver a new neighbourhood for its city; the new district is known as Eddington; so named after the renowned astronomer, mathematician and physicist Sir Arthur Eddington, a Cambridge alumnus and resident in the local area in the early part of the twentieth century.
The University of Cambridge is one of the oldest and most prestigious on Earth, so it hosts students from all nationalities and walks of life. This makes the city one of the most diverse places in the UK, with a long-standing tradition of cultural exchange. There are plenty of activities in Cambridge dedicated to community-building: spaces where nationalities meet and create new traditions while honouring their old ones. For example, the Cambridge African Network always offers really interesting events, including their Christmas party, and now I keep hearing of more and more festivals and gatherings being organized in town. Still, Cambridge continues to retain the charm of a small town, with a population of about 125,000.
Located in the newest North West Cambridge neighbourhood, Eddington, Athena seems more like a lifestyle than an urban project. With ancient-looking façades inspired by the historic character of Cambridge, these houses have a completely different idea of life in the city. They offer studio, one, two and three-bedroom apartments as well as three and four-bedroom houses. Each of these was created with sustainability in mind from the get-go, with game-changing details like green roofs that manage surface water, and plenty of solar panels. Once you’re inside the apartment or house, every single appliance is green through being energy-efficient. Since the complex was built with sustainable materials and ideas, it’s an absolutely essential part of each section. It’s a very big difference with more traditional constructions, which have had to adapt to ecologic practices instead of being in tune with the planet’s needs from the start.
As home to one of the most prestigious universities in the world, Cambridge has been at the top of innovation for centuries, and that’s now extended to living conditions. The entirety of Athena is focused on two things: sustainability and providing a high quality of life. It’s fashioned to not just be a place for high-end living, but also to blend in with the eclectic Cambridge crowds through wide green spaces and centres for community-building.
Comforts are readily available here in a way I’d only seen across the pond, with just about everything within the very complex. For now, there’s a supermarket, the University of Cambridge Primary School, and a performing arts centre. More endeavours are to come, including cafés, a hotel and a health centre. While it can look like a very Americanised way of building, the heart of the complex is a broad market square, not unlike how towns grew in England and throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. It’s a beautiful way to mix the old with the new: using state-of-the-art construction eco materials to build something that resembles a medieval citadel.
The peaceful yet culturally rich Cambridge is a wonderful place to settle down, and Athena offers a great deal for all, particularly for couples looking to extend their families. The growing social, economic and cultural offer inside the complex makes it ideal to raise little ones, as grownups and children can have their pickings among interesting activities. The complex is about 150 times the size of Trafalgar Square, with vast green spaces to breathe and play; and you can be sure there will be plenty of things to do without having to venture far from home, a very safe setting for little kids. Eddington is also far from isolated from the rest of Cambridge, as it’s barely a 10-minute bike ride from the town’s market square.
The University of Cambridge is shaping the Eddington district to be a sort of refuge for key staff members as well as students, while also expanding to other city residents. There are plenty of new Athena homes available for sale for anyone looking to make a home in Cambridge, or those who’d like to upgrade their local living to something more modern and sustainable. I for one never thought I’d see this day, when my hometown was at the forefront of sustainable construction and living in such a beautiful setting.
Find out more at Athena here.