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Hopkins wins public support for revised Norwich design

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Sir Michael Hopkins & Partners has applied for planning permission for its long-awaited £60 million Norwich library project, to be supported by the Millennium Commission. The project, in front of St Peter Mancroft Church, replaces the old Norwich Central Library, destroyed by fire in summer 1994.

The design includes a library (at the curved end of the building), multi- media auditorium, business and learning centre, visitor centre, cafes, open spaces and underground parking. The horseshoe-shaped building has been open to consultation for 18 months, and the refined design is now on public display in Norwich City Hall. Materials comprise, brick, glass, and sheet-metal roofing, possibly seamed zinc.

Matching funding for the scheme, known as the Norfolk & Norwich Millennium Project, will largely be provided by the county and city councils. The Millennium Commission gave its backing to the concept a year ago and final approval was given on 1 May this year.

The scheme represents considerable achievement by the Hopkins practice. In the wake of the fire which destroyed much of the region's historic archive, a 'Technopolis' was proposed with an emphasis on new forms of library facilities and communications. This proposal received widespread public opposition - as well as widespread support - and was eventually dropped. The reorganisation of the body promoting the project and a wide- ranging public consultation programme resulted in a brief with a change of emphasis but, in reality, not a huge change of content. But this time there has been substantial support for the scheme, which creates a new public square as well as other significant facilties. Most of the project should be open to the public by the end of 2000, but with some fitting- out extending into 2001.

As would be expected, the design includes a low-energy environmental strategy despite the substantial availability of technology within the building itself. The car park will be naturally ventilated by two chimney towers at the extreme ends of the north and south wings.

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