The main buildings on Huntingdon Road were designed by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, who are best known as the architects for the Barbican in London. They put the main 'community' areas, the Dining-Hall, the Library and Fellows' teaching rooms, in the centre of the College around a sunken Fountain Court. Student accommodation spirals out from that centre, and the whole complex is held together by the Main Walkway, which runs from one end to the other and from which all areas can be accessed. Phases 1 and 2 of the original design were opened by the Queen Mother in June 1965. The adjoining Grove Estate was bought by the University, and part of it came to New Hall on the death of the life tenant in 1988. New plans were drawn up for Phase 3 by Austin-Smith: Lord. Continuity was provided by Frank Woods, who had been a junior architect with Chamberlin, Powell and Bon and was by then a senior partner with Austin-Smith: Lord. Pearl House (formerly New Block) is roughly in the position envisaged for the original Phase 3 buildings, but the College's main entrance was moved to the end nearer town and the design for the Porters' Lodge and adjoining meeting rooms was totally new. These buildings were opened by Betty Boothroyd, Speaker of the House of Commons, in June 1995. The Kaetsu Building was opened in 1996. In the last few years the 1960s buildings have been extensively refurbished under the direction of David Emond from R.H. Partnership, Cambridge. These buildings and Fountain Court are listed Grade II* and have won various architectural awards over the years.
The 1960s buildings were constructed by W.C. French Ltd, who built the original motorway bridges on the M1. The innovative structure and use of materials made it a challenging project. The Dome (Dining Hall) is a most extraordinary building. The 'petals' are pre-cast concrete, only 4" thick and flanged so that they overlap round each other (with glass panels between). They are held in place by a steel ring at the top and another at the bottom. The large concrete slabs over the bays are supported on 'nibs' protruding from the steel ring. The whole of the weight is taken by 8 slender columns in pairs, which are hollow steel tubes and also act as the drains for the roof. None of the weight goes to the walls, as can be seen from the glass clerestory. The central rising servery still works, though it no longer transports food from the kitchen below on a daily basis. The recent refurbishment has added modern food lifts and a servery accessed through one of the original outside walls.
The Library is also a remarkable space. It too has a glass clerestory, and the weight of its barrel vault is held on 4 pillars, 2 at either end. The vault is made up of 8 precast sections, originally held together by tensioned steel cables running round the base. One of these failed a couple of years ago; luckily the resultant cracking of the middle section was noticed before the roof actually collapsed and the structure is now held together by steel joists running along the length of the vault.
The 1960s student accommodation is not normally shown to visitors but it too has its pecularities, particularly the split-level rooms on the top floor, with their internal balconies, their split-step staircases and their concrete beds and desks.
The 1990s buildings were required by the City planners to 'match' the original buildings externally, but modern materials and techniques make them more energy efficient. They were constructed by Kajima UK Ltd.