EARLHAM ROAD (South,off)
Teaching Wall and raised concourse, with attached walkways, at University of East Anglia
Staggered spinal block of teaching accommodation. 1964-8 by Denys Lasdun and Partners, commissioned in 1962 to produce a master plan for the new University of East Anglia; completed 1968-70 by Feilden and Mawson.
Cross wall concrete construction with precast panels made on site, 10" thick externally, with 6" loadbearing crosswalls within. There are four large basic components, which were manufactured in Norwich and assembled on site with some in situ specials. The panels are 2'7" to produce a 21' overall grid. Internal joints recessed, external joints with neoprene baffle and damp proof backing. This was determined to obtain the maximum reptition of unites and flexibility in the use of the building, with the same system used for arts and science subjects. The central section built of concrete frame construction, clad in concrete block. Siporex precast concrete roof units.
Five storeys and service towers. Linked by in situ concrete walkway at second-floor level that joins on that to Norfolk and Suffolk Terraces (q.v.) Service entrances from roadway at ground level. Anodised aluminium windows designed to be resistant to chemical action, and containg vertical sliding sash units with glass slid directly against the frame. The areas for Chemical Sciences, Biological Services and Arts were built to Lasdun's specifications; the infill sections to a simplified system by Bernard Feilden.
Interiors not of special interest as designed for rapid, easy change. Walkway of reinforced concrete with precast balustrading. Spiral stairs link it to ground level; similar concrete spiral staircases serve as fire escapes on the main spine building, particularly at the end (biological sciences) where the walkway is furthest from ground level.
The University of East Anglia was founded in 1960, and Lasdun was commissioned as consultant architect in April 1962. The site was 165 acres of parkland on the edge of Norwich, used by the local authority as a golf course and flanked by the River Yare, dammed to form a lake (or broad) in c.1977. Lasdun was determined to preserve the flat, marshy and very open valley landscape and the line of ziggurats placed where the valley begins to rise is part of this. The spine was conceived in close relation to this, just like the relationship between the infant and junior wings at Hallfield School had done on a very much smaller scale in 1953-5 (City of Westminster, grade II*). This is a version that shows Lasdun's mature style at its finest. In 1960 Chamberlin, Powell and Bon had conceived the 'ten minute university' in their expansion scheme for Leeds; here Lasdun's aim was the 'five minute university' where departments and student accommodation was to be concentrated on a compact site. UEA and Leeds both adopted the principle of the continuous teaching block, derived from North American (especially Canadian) models. Lasdun's nascent scheme, published in May 1963, intended a development of up to 6,000 people over fifteen years, and shows the form of the ziggurats and long spinal teaching block in a form clearly recognisable though more complex and extensive than that built. The accommodation was designed to bring all the teaching together, representative of the belief of the Vice Chancellor, Frank Thistlethwaite, and the Academic Planning Board, that the most productive areas of research were at the boundaries between subjects, and that much was to be gained by study in `schools' of related subjects.
'The powerful sculptural forms of the Lasdun UEA make the university proud to find itself on the international circuit. The buildings themselves, however, should be seen not only as form-making and an intellectualised counterpoint between the building mass and the landscape; they give lessons in consistent detail throughout a wide-ranging building programme and illustrate a single-minded effort to ensure high quality maintenance-free exteriors and internal elements within permitted cost levels' (Architects' Journal, 14 June 1972, p.1334).
Of all the new universities of the 1960s the architecture of UEA 'has most consciously created a visual impression of experiment and enquiry, yet without the use of bizarre forms of materials, and notably without recourse to any academic architecture' (Tony Birks and Michael Holford, Building the New Universities, 1972, p.73). Lioneal Brett, Lord Esher, described the concept as 'this beautiful organism ... this deeply felt and imaginative concept' (quoted in Muthesius, The Post-War University, p.141)
Arup Journal, March 1968, pp.36-41
Frank Thistlethwaite, `The University of East Anglia', in Murray G Ross, New Universities in the Modern World, Macmillan/St Martin's Press, London and New York, 1966, pp.53-68
Architects' Journal, 14 June 1972, 1322-38
Tony Birks and Michael Holford, Building the New Universities, Newton Abbot, 1972, pp.73-83.
Denys Lasdun and Partners, A Language and a Theme, London, 1976
Diane Kay, University Architecture in Britain 1950-75, unpub. PhD thesis, Oxford, 1987, p.184
William J R Curtis, Denys Lasdun, London, 1994, 87-101
Stefan Muthesius, The Postwar University, Utopianist Campus and College, London, Yale University Press/Paul Mellon Centre, 2000, pp.138-49.
Stefan Muthesius, Concrete and Open Skies, The University of East Anglia, 2001