15 May Westlegate House – RIBA Awards
RIBA East Award 2016
From : 5thstudio.co.uk
The Westlegate Tower project has redeveloped one of Norwich’s most high profile, and most unpopular buildings. The site spans between two significant shopping streets with the city centre – Westlegate and Timberhill – which had been left unused since 2005, and the development comprises 17 residential apartments, including a courtyard house, two town houses and four commercial units.
The architects, 5th Studio, decided to question the City Council’s planning policy, which recommended demolition of the tower; they saw that retention and reuse were not only possible but could bring real positives in terms of sustainability and a new social cohesion for the area.
In order to improve the proportion of the tower, its height was increased by three storeys, producing a more appealing and slender silhouette. This, together with new cladding, means that the development now provides a landmark for the city rather than the eyesore that the unused tower had become. The transformation of the tower was achieved by using standard curtain walling systems with a variety of finishes, cover strips, metal cladding and mesh; these allow the tower to change character with changes in levels and strength of light.
At ground level the development also repairs the urban grain in a most successful way. The new accommodation knits together a neglected area of the city’s urban fabric; a previously unloved car park in leftover space at the base of the tower. The development has helped to re-establish the historic grain of lanes, yards and passageways, rediscovering the lost Lion and Castle Yard as an enjoyable public thoroughfare, and enriching the pedestrian experience.
The popular new bakery that has recently moved in to one of the commercial units provides evidence that the ambition of both architect and developer has been successful in reinvigorating a previously underused area of Norwich, as well as providing the occupants of the tower and the casual passer-by with high quality baked goods.