What is the best designed architecture in Norwich in the 21st century?

The Creative Arts Building at City College Norwich. Photo: David Bussey

The Creative Arts Building at City College Norwich - Credit: David Bussey

The architects of old Norwich are well known but what about those of the 21st century? Derek James takes a look at a fascinating new booklet

From council houses to shops and from additions to landmark buildings to high-rise homes….this is the changing face of Norwich.

The story behind the latest developments are told so well in a booklet  you can buy for a fiver, tuck under your arm and go exploring…looking at some of our major new developments.

Yes, we have lost too many fine old buildings in the past, but it is interesting to look at the new ones and consider the role they are playing in 21st century life.

And that includes a colourful (and Canary supporting) multi-storey car park!

The latest offering from The Norwich Society highlights some of the buildings built since the turn of the century and reflects on the best work, ranging from housing and  student accommodation to commercial and cultural buildings.

“We have not included private dwellings but concentrate on those buildings that contribute to our street scenes and public realm. Bridges, public spaces and similar infrastructure are excluded,” explained John Boon.

The Refectory at Norwich Cathedral. Photo: Paul Tyagi

The Refectory at Norwich Cathedral - Credit: Paul Tyagi

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And Norwich Society chairman Barry Howell says the booklet illustrates Norwich’s success in retaining its individual architectural identity in the face of amorphous and characterless development elsewhere in the country.

“Of course, the city’s appearance is sometimes under threat when commercial interest is put ahead of anything else and not all recent work is good,” he adds.

And Barry points out: “We have to be vigilant. I hope this booklet will encourage readers to go out, see for themselves what has been achieved, and take an active interest in our urban environment as it evolves.

Rose Lane multi-storey car park. Photo: Huber Car Park Systems

Rose Lane multi-storey car park - Credit: Huber Car Park Systems

“Our predecessors have bequeathed us a wonderful city and we must do all we can to ensure its continuation as an exceptionally attractive place to live and work.”

The Norwich Society  has run a biennial Design Awards scheme, in recent years in collaboration with Civic Voice and the Norfolk Association of Architects which aims to celebrate the role of good design and high quality architecture.

Many of the projects listed in the booklet have won these awards, and the society hopes they demonstrate how our rich heritage has continued to grow in the 21st century.

The award-winning Goldsmith Street. Photo. Paul Burrall

The award-winning Goldsmith Street - Credit: Paul Burrall

You can judge for yourself. There are sections on:

  • Housing which highlights the award-winning Goldsmith Street development and many others.
  • Student housing including the bold Pablo Fanque House on All Saints Green.
  • Education. The UEA buildings, The Norwich University of the Arts developments, the striking Creative Arts Building at City College and others.
  • Civic. The Forum, the Bus Station and even a car park – the colourful one at Rose Lane with the bright Canary yellow ground floor exterior.
  • Health and Social Care. Bowthorpe Care Village, and thoughtful extensions to Doughty’s and the Great Hospital.
  • Culture. The remodelling of the Theatre Royal, Dragon Hall extension and the King’s Centre which fits in well along ancient King Street.
  • Ecclesiastic. These highlight the Cathedral Hostry and Refectory and the Narthex at the Cathedral of St John.
  • Commercial. Dragonfly House, St James Court and Yare House.
  • Retail. Chapelfield (now Chantry Place) and more. 
  • Greater Norwich. Includes  the Watersport Centre at Whitlingham and the Bob Champion building at the important and high-tech Norwich Research Park.

The Norwich Society are to be congratulated on their latest offering. Especially Jon Boon and former member Paul Burall for writing and illustrating it with the editorial team of Mary Ash, David Bussey and Victoria Manthorpe.

The Architects of Norwich: Norwich in the Twenty-first Century  is on sale for £5 from Jarrold and City Bookshop.

If you are interested in the city then you can join the society – more details at www.thenorwichsociety.org.uk

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