The new Norwich University of the Arts School of Architecture is an impressive refurbishment of a large Grade II listed building in Norwich city centre. A major programme of refurbishment and remodelling by Hudson Architects now offers a new home for Norwich University of the Arts’ expanding architecture programme, as well as state of the art facilities for the University’s media faculty.
The heritage of the 1474 sq.m landmark – built by Norwich architect Edward Boardman in 1879 as a Sunday School building - has not only been well respected through the design, but also preserved and celebrated wherever possible. Hudson Architects’ rejuvenation gives the much-altered building a new long term use, and was completed in November 2015, soon after the graduation of Norwich University of the Arts’ first cohort of BA Architecture students in summer 2015.
Externally, the Neoclassical facades are largely untouched, while internal features such as Boardman’s original staircase – now suspended above the entranceway - provide a quirky reminder of the building’s history. The main entrance has been reconfigured as an impressive double height foyer leading to the education spaces, where students and staff from a range of disciplines can meet informally. The foyer is bordered by gallery space where students’ work can be displayed. As well as the hanging stairs, this area contains other clues about the building’s history such as a column capital glimpsed through an internal window.
The University’s School of Architecture is housed on the building’s ground and first floors. The main feature is a grand, double height central atrium encircled by a gallery, which acts as a focus for the internal arrangement. This space opens up to the vaulted ceiling, where replaced rooflights flood the area beneath with daylight. Elegant candelabra provide additional lighting and a contemporary layer against the retained and restored historic fabric, which includes an ornate balustrade to the gallery, with cast iron feature scrolls beneath and ornate plaster work and panelling throughout.
A key new intervention is a feature staircase which pierces the balustrade and connects the School of Architecture’s two floors. The staircase acts as a sculptural object beyond its practical purpose, with carefully detailed oak treads, set into a steel balustrade with a delicate water-cut pattern that echoes the highly decorated gallery balustrade.
Studio and teaching spaces are arranged alongside staff offices around the perimeter of each floor, with a range of open spaces and individual rooms providing flexibility for a range of uses and group sizes. A seminar room features a glazed wall that can become an opaque projection screen, while a glazed floor to another offers views onto the hanging staircase and the foyer beneath.
On the lower ground floor, the Faculty of Media enjoys a suite of spaces where retained fabric meets state of the art technology. Intricate tiled floors and cast iron columns are among the original features set against more contemporary finishes and equipment. Teaching spaces include fully equipped film and sound studios, alongside other seminar and studio spaces.