Cavendish House is a major refurbishment and remodeling of an existing building in Norwich city centre, which now houses a new public gallery, meeting spaces and supported incubation spaces for fledgling creative businesses. This project for Norwich University of the Arts opened in late 2015, and is already established as a successful showcase for artists and creative businesses in the city. It is one of a series of recently completed buildings for Norwich University of the Arts, and an important element in the university’s continuing programme to develop its higher education and cultural facilities.
Cavendish House is located in the Norwich City Conservation Area, and sits adjacent to the Grade I listed St Andrews Church – one of the last medieval churches to be built in Norwich. The original office building was a mid-20th century four storey block, out of keeping with its older neighbours and offering a bland street presence.
Hudson Architects’ design approach has been to work with the existing building to create a distinctive city centre presence for Norwich University of the Arts, while contributing to Norwich’s diverse and intricate townscape and improving the public realm through a series of relatively simple yet highly effective new interventions. The ground floor, which contains the new East gallery space, is now fully glazed at street level to create an active, welcoming façade. Above, a new roof extension and much of the east elevation below is clad with a mineral-filled acrylic material, reading as a distinctive new tower topped with a decorative frieze, breaking out from the redeveloped block. The tower’s materials complement adjacent buildings, while its volume enhances the building’s street presence, offering a contemporary focal point and echoing the medieval church opposite. Meanwhile the original building’s brick elevations and stone dressings have been extensively repaired to improve their durability and appearance, and new powder coated windows enhance the building’s crisp new aesthetic.
Inside, the ground floor gallery is used as an educational exhibition space, exhibiting both international artists’ work and that of staff and students. A generous floor area, excellent daylighting and a flexible layout make this an outstanding new display space which has already played host to several successful exhibitions. The upper floors are used not only for NUA offices but also – and more importantly – as the University’s new Ideas Factory Digital Creative Incubation Centre. This provides low cost supported workspaces, serving as a hub for graduates and digital start-ups to develop their businesses and products, and retain their talent in the area. Offices and new meeting rooms have been fitted out to a high specification, and all enjoy excellent daylighting and impressive views across the city centre through the tall new windows. A disused internal courtyard has been enclosed to accommodate a lift and ancillary spaces, and cluttered and disorientating circulation spaces have been stripped out. In their place an elegant new timber staircase rises through the building, topped with a large rooflight that floods the stairwell and landings with natural light.