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5th Studio completes Westlegate Tower overhaul

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London and Cambridge-based 5th Studio has converted a 1960’s office tower block in Norwich into 17 new homes


The original Westlegate Tower, seen as a symbol of the city’s modernity, was abandoned in 2005 and the council controversially planned to flatten the building.

In 2012 the tower was purchased by FW Properties and Soho Estates who appointed 5th Studio after an invited competition.

The £5.8million scheme has added three storeys to the existing structure.

Each apartment in the block occupies a single floor plate that gives each dwelling 360-degree views across the city. The new envelope employs a series of patterns across the façade to provide coherence to the tower.

‘The cladding was designed within the tight budget constraints of standard curtain walling,’ says the architect. ‘By using a variety of glass finishes, metal mesh and cover strips, a skin was developed that changes radically with light conditions and the aspect from which the tower is viewed.’

Westlegate Tower overhaul by 5th Studio

Westlegate Tower overhaul by 5th Studio

Architect’s view

Westlegate Tower is one of Norwich’s most high profile buildings. Rather than demolish it, we wanted to revive and redevelop it into a landmark tower for the city. We explored how the site, in the heart of Norwich’s medieval city centre, might be creatively reimagined as a mixed-use city block. We added three storeys, creating a new ‘crown’ for the building, and using a variety of glass finishes and metal mesh, developed a new skin for the building that changes with light conditions and the aspect from which the tower is viewed.

To deliver the urban connectivity which the tower had originally obliterated we renegotiated the surrounding landscape, including the renovation of 20 Westlegate, the addition of a new build modern town house, and the reinstatement of the lost Lion & Castle Yard as a public thoroughfare, reconnecting and re-establishing the historic grain of lanes, yards and passageways that characterise Norwich’s city centre. For 5th Studio, it’s an important urban restoration and dense intercity mixed use project.

Westlegate Tower overhaul by 5th Studio

Westlegate Tower overhaul by 5th Studio

Project data

Architect 5th Studio
Location Norwich
Type of project Urban restoration and dense inner-city mixed use
Structural engineer Rossi Long Consulting
Client FW Properties with Soho Estates
Tender date October 2012
Start on site date March 2013
Contract duration 28 months
Gross internal floor area 3,530m²
Form of contract and/or procurement Novated Design and Build
Total cost £5.8million
M&E consultant BSD, Contact Electrical
Quantity surveyor Bremner Partnership
Planning supervisor Lanpro
Lighting consultant George Sexton Associates
Main contractor Graham Construction
Selected subcontractors and suppliers GFS (curtain walling, aluminium cladding, external windows and doors), Warwick Engineering (steel and aluminium pre-fabricators) The C.E.L. Group (zinc cladding),
Annual co2 emissions 17.1 kgCO2/m²



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