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|Location:||Norwich, United Kingdom|
|Client:||Norwich and Norfolk Millennium Co Ltd|
|Awards:||Civic Trust Award;|
RIBA Regional Award;
After Norwich Library was destroyed by fire, the practice was commissioned by the City and Norfolk County Council to create an architectural landmark and civic institution suitable for the new millennium.
The lottery-funded Forum redevelops the old library site along with an adjacent car park to form a complete city block for the building’s combined mixed uses. These include library and archive services, local visitor and business centres, a heritage exhibition, retail, bar and restaurant facilities, and the regional BBC centre for television and radio. Commercial office space occupies one third of the building, generating further income, as does a new underground car park.
Constructed in loadbearing brickwork, the Forum creates a sense of civic gravitas. The three-storey building shelters a horseshoe-shaped enclosure housing a new public space. The semi-circular end encloses the library and provides it with a continuous elevation to the west, while the eastern end opens to the city through a spectacular glazed wall, framing the Gothic church tower of St Peter Mancroft.
Within the horseshoe, the new public space provides a space for people to variously congregate, linger in the café or orientate themselves before using the building’s more formal facilities. The courtyard roof is supported by bow-string steel trusses forming leaf shaped panels, infilled with acoustically absorbent material or glazing.
Within, the semi-circular library, reception and communal activities are positioned to the centre, with children's and US Air Force libraries on the ground floor and quieter study rooms above. These include individual study bays at first and second floor level.
The mass of the building acts as a passive environmental modifier, while active building engineering systems assist the fabric in recycling ambient energy.