What is Norwich’s best building?
PUBLISHED: 19:00 10 March 2020
As a new book names the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich as one of Britain’s best buildings of the last 100 years, we celebrate the city’s mix of ancient and modern architecture. Is your favourite city landmark among them?
It was architect Sir Norman Foster's first major public building, is home to a world class collection of art and antiquities and has even starred on the silver screen. Now the Sainsbury Centre on the UEA campus has been chosen alongside landmarks including The Shard and the London Aquatics Centre as a shining example of modern British architecture.
The gallery is one of just three buildings in the east of England to feature in the new book, Best Buildings Britain, along with the Willis Building in Ipswich, another building designed by Foster Associates, and A House For Essex on the banks of the River Stour, designed by FAT Architecture and Grayson Perry. All those included have been selected by architects and architecture experts and have all been built within the last 100 years. Some of their other choices include brutalist masterpieces such as Preston Bus Station and the National Theatre and Art Deco gems such as De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill and Marine Court in St Leonards on Sea.
Of course, Norwich is home to many beautiful examples of architecture, from ancient treasures to modern day masterpieces. Inspired by Best Buildings Britain, we've compiled, in no particular order, a list of our favourites - and you can vote for yours in our poll.
1. Ziggurats, UEA campus
UEA has been home to bold, cutting edge architecture right from the start. When the university was founded in the early 1960s, architect Denys Lasdun was commissioned to plan the first buildings, creating a concrete teaching block, lecture theatres, library, socialising spaces and residences all within a short walk of each other. And the distinctive-shaped Grade II listed 'ziggurat' halls of residence, designed to create a sense of community among students, are often cited as a brutalist masterpiece.
2. Octagon Chapel, Colegate
Completed in 1756, the Octagon Chapel is part of architect Thomas Ivory's legacy which live on in the city's fabric. A fine example of English Neo-Palladian architecture, it was originally built as a Presbyterian chapel and is now a Unitarian chapel.
3. The Forum, Millennium Plain
August 1, 1994 was a tragic date for the city - it was the day of the central library fire when thousands of books and historic documents were destroyed. But its replacement, The Forum, has become a much-loved public building. Opened in 2001 as a millennium project it was designed by Michael Hopkins and Hopkins and Partners and as well as being home to one of the busiest libraries in the country, it houses the city's tourist information centre and BBC TV and radio studios and hosts events such as Norwich Science Festival.
4. Norwich Castle
At the heart of life in the city for 900 years, the 'square box on the hill' was only England's third stone castle, after the Tower of London and Colchester, a royal palace, and then for centuries the county jail before becoming a museum at the end of the 19th century.
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5. Norwich Cathedral
Norwich Cathedral is breathtaking from every angle, but to fully appreciate its scale the view from Mousehold Heath really puts it in perspective.
Founded by Herbert de Losinga, construction started in 1096 and is thought to have been completed between 1121 and 1145.
6. Cathedral of St John the Baptist
The second largest Roman Catholic cathedral in England, the Cathedral of St John the Baptist was designed by George Gilbert Scott Jr and built between 1882 and 1910 on the site of Norwich City Gaol.
7. Royal Arcade
George Skipper was the architect of some of Norwich's most famous commercial buildings, including Jarrold department store and Surrey House. And the Art Nouveau-influenced Royal Arcade, with its famous stained glass, is one of the jewels in the crown. Linking Gentleman's Walk to Back of the Inns, it opened in 1899, when arcade shopping had become the height of fashion.
8. City Hall
With its entrance flanked by two lions, the Art Deco City Hall was designed by architects Charles Holloway James and Stephen Rowland Pierce. Building began in 1936 and it was opened in 1938, miraculously surviving the bombardment of the city which followed shortly after.
9. Enterprise Centre at UEA
The Enterprise Centre on the UEA campus is one of the greenest buildings in Europe and has won countless awards. It opened in June 2015 and as well as having Passivhaus certification and using eco friendly innovations such as rooftop solar panels, local materials including timber from Thetford Forest, flint from Holt and straw were used in its construction, as were upcyled materials including laboratory benches which were turned into exterior panels.
Best Buildings Britain, compiled by Matthew Freedman, is published by Luster priced £15.