New sculpture in Norwich - but what does it mean?

The Architect sculpture at Benedict's Gate student accommodation in Norwich designed by Joseph Hilli

The Architect sculpture at Benedict's Gate student accommodation in Norwich designed by Joseph Hillier. Picture: Joseph Hillier - Credit: Joseph Hillier

Modern art representing Norwich’s rich history and future will be on show for students in a new development.

Norwich poet Jenny Pagdin. Picture: Jenny Pagdin

Norwich poet Jenny Pagdin. Picture: Jenny Pagdin - Credit: Jenny Pagdin

The bronze sculpture of a woman, called The Architect, has been designed by international artist Joseph Hillier and stands proud in the courtyard of the Benedict’s Gate student accommodation near Grapes Hill built by Alumno.

It is half a metre tall and stands on a two-metre high plinth and is based on a poem called Sisters of the Gated City by Norwich poet Jenny Pagdin.

Art curator Matthew Jarratt. Picture: Matthew Jarratt

Art curator Matthew Jarratt. Picture: Matthew Jarratt - Credit: Matthew Jarratt

The poem features 12 different women depicting different centuries and becomes more positive throughout the piece and is inscribed into the walls of the student accommodation.

Mr Hillier’s sculpture represents the child of the 21st century woman who would become a future architect of Norwich.

The 302-bed Benedicts Gate student accomodation being built in central Norwich should be complted by

The 302-bed Benedicts Gate student accomodation being built in central Norwich should be complted by late summer 2020. Picture:Neil Didsbury - Credit: Archant


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To link in with the poem it faces one of the city’s 12 historic gates which inspired Ms Pagdin’s work.

Mr Hillier, 46, who lives in the north east of England, said: “The poem described the different situations women would have found themselves in. It is very beautiful and empowering. It looks into the future. It is in a bold, architectural space.”

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The sculpture features 12 gilt archways carved into the body of the woman representing the different characters from the poem.

MORE: New bronze sculpture to be installed near site of one of Norwich’s medieval gatesMr Hillier said: “The Architect has a presence in the space. It is quite commanding.”

In the past he has created sculptures for university campus grounds in Newcastle and Hull but never before created a piece for student accommodation.

Benedict’s Gate opened in September and it is the third student accommodation complex created by Alumno in Norwich.

Ms Pagdin, 41, who was supported by the National Centre for Writing, said: “The sculpture looks stunning. It is a privilege for my work to be on the wall.”

Arts consultant Matthew Jarratt, who liaised between the artists and Alumno, said: “It is a big building and it is important that buildings have arts projects that are site specific.”

He added the sculpture and poem celebrated and explored the city’s medieval walls.

“It is a theatrical way to look at the wall,” said Mr Jarratt.

The accommodation, which includes 302 flats, was built on land which was a former Toys R Us store and car park.

The Sisters of the Gated City by Jenny Pagdin

C13th Walled in at King’s Street Gate for two score years,

my breath still mists out through the stony squint;

meanwhile they have shamed my sister the Scold

out of Ber Street Gate to put her in the stocks.

C16th My sister the Flemish Stranger arrives

through Brazen Gate. She shares her husband’s loom

with us - and his canary pet!

C18th Come, let us stroll past the picturesque ruins

from St Stephen’s Gate to Wilderness Gardens

where an aerostatic globe bobs overhead

while down in the miasma near St Giles’ Gate

our dearest Mary ministers to the sick.

C20th With no stove in the suffrage shop, each lunchtime

we trudge up to St Benedict’s Gate. Deeds, not words!

Maisie Appleton, Wincarnis Works

by Heigham Gate. Health is priceless, we tell our ladies.

C21st I’m Samira, playing peekaboo with my youngest

by the river near old St Martin’s Gate.

In the evening, near St Augustine’s Gate,

I’ll help make up warm welcomes from the City of Refuge.

My eldest boy just finished at Magdalen Gates,

wants to be a lawyer, has opinions on the news;

perhaps the obstetrician who oversaw his birth

has a crash pad near Pockthorpe Gate, perhaps she writes plays,

perhaps the first infant she delivers this morning

(in the suite with a lino-print of Bishop Gate)

will grow up the architect of her own city

watching cranes pivot in a cobalt sky.

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