Architecture Minister Ed Vaizey has handed a grade-II* listing to Foster + Partners’ Sainsbury Centre - described as a ‘high point’ of the British high-tech movement
The minister, who is known for his appreciation of modern architecture, agreed with the recommendation to list from English Heritage, which praised the 1977 building at the University of East Anglia for its ‘architectural innovation, design, historic association, flexibility and group value’.
Vaizey said: ‘Norman Foster’s design for the Sainsbury Centre is recognised around the world as a high point of the British high-tech movement and, by any standards, a modern classic. As well as standing comparison with any late 20th century building anywhere in the world, it is also superbly fit for purpose, thanks to innovative engineering coming together with very fine design’
Foster added: ‘A building is only as good as its client and the architecture of the Sainsbury Centre is inseparable from the enlightenment and the driving force of the Sainsburys themselves and the support of the University of East Anglia.’
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Excerpt from listing notification (attached)
“The hangar-like internal space and proportions, and details such as the circular nozzles for the ventilation system, all give the building an aerospace feel; even the toilets are said to have been inspired by those of a Boeing 747 aircraft. This adds to the centre’s high-tech credentials and harks forward to Foster’s Stansted Airport design, as well as the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank where again Foster’s moved the services to the extremities to maximise the contained space.
The centre stands in contrast to the more Brutalist form of the university’s other celebrated buildings, and thereby reflects developments in British architectural design since the original campus was constructed.”
The building houses a school of fine ert and art centre including a collection gifted to the University of East Anglia by Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury.
The design incorporates structural and service elements within the double-layer walls and roof. Within this shell is a free-flowing sequence of spaces that incorporates a conservatory reception area, coffee bar, exhibition areas, the Faculty of Fine Art, senior common rooms and a restaurant.
Full-height windows at either end of the structure allow the surrounding landscape to form a backdrop to the exhibition and dining areas, while aluminium louvres, linked to light sensors, line the interior to provide an infinitely flexible system for the control of natural and artificial light.
In 1988 the building was extended to provide space for the display of the reserve collection, together with curatorial and conservation facilities and a gallery for exhibitions and conferences. The new wing extends the building at basement level, exploiting the natural contours of the site forming a glazed crescent incised into the grassy bank.
In 2004, further improvements were initiated to provide additional display space, an internal link between the main and Crescent Wing galleries, improved shop, cafe and other visitor facilities, and a new education centre.