Opinion: I Love Anglia Square in Norwich, a place to be celebrated
- Credit: Archant
I am a new resident of Norwich. Since moving here, I have fallen in love with Anglia Square.
Michael Lewis, Wodehouse Street, Norwich.
I am an artist with a background in architecture and have been working on a series of drawings that attempt to celebrate Anglia Square's architectural merits. Every city wants to have carefully designed, well-utilised public spaces. Every city wants to encourage and foster young creativity. Every city wants architectural landmarks. The best cities want to celebrate their diversity and give space for the exchange of cultures and ideas. Norwich has such a space in Anglia Square. Across the country, buildings of the brutalist era are being demolished. If we're not careful, we will erase an entire chapter of our architectural heritage, leaving only photographic evidence of an entire decade of built work. While some people may consider this erasure a good thing, it feels somewhat selfish to make such lasting decisions for future generations. How often do we neglect significant cultural contributions and movements, only for future generations to celebrate them? Projects with the scale and ambition of Anglia Square are rare and frequently lack the same level of consideration. The Barbican Centre in London comes to mind as a worthy comparison. Yet while the Barbican is nationally celebrated, Anglia Square is frequently maligned. I believe the core reason for this difference comes down to care. The Barbican Centre is well funded and maintained, while parts of Anglia Square have been allowed to fall into disrepair. It is easy to criticise an unkempt building. It is easy to point at something unloved and mock it. However, underneath the decay of Anglia Square is the fabric of an elegant, assured structure. If approached with sensitivity, it could quite easily be transformed into a city treasure. There are many important reasons why it's worth trying to save Anglia Square. There is an ecological argument, as the embodied energy in the current structure and cost of demolition are both significant. There is a social argument for saving the square, as the space is an important community hub. Finally, there is a cultural argument in preserving the intangible but massively important role of Outpost Studios as a space of creative vitality within the Norfolk arts community. While other cities are desperately trying to fabricate art scenes or draft a narrative that frames cultural richness, Norwich already has such a community. All we need to do is help support it. Anything that elicits such polarised views as Anglia Square should be considered very carefully. The implications of tearing the project down are, of course, irreversible. Before we commit to such a drastic action, perhaps it's worth reconsidering how the buildings might be more sensitively redesigned. Rather than destroy our past, perhaps we could figure out a way to celebrate it.