University of East Anglia, Norwich
Designed by Denys Lasdun in the early 60’s and implemented in stages through the latter half of the C20 the masterplan for the UEA is based on the idea of the ‘five minute university’. The idea that students should be able to get from lectures to halls in five minutes or less. At the front are the iconic ziggurats where the students live and behind the ‘teaching wall’, an enormous snake of a building connected by high-level walkways to the ziggurats and to the right to the social area with the union, shops and lecture theatres and finally more of the ziggurats at the bottom.
When Christopher and I visited it was out of term time so we took our time navigating the walkways to the Sainsbury Centre (on which there will be a post at a later date). I found I really enjoyed the way the students were elevated on these walkways above the service roads and utilitarian innards below. It felt like the future. As is to be expected of any university there have been many modern additions to the campus but none of them have the continuity and coherence of the original Lasdun design. It all feels as though they’ve been scattered rather haphazardly around the periphery and nowhere more so than at the entrance where huge plazas and car parks make the newly constructed buildings look windswept and distant.
Lasdun has managed to create here a university that works. Perhaps it could do with a bit of a tidy up, some repair to the concrete and a lick of paint but on the whole it still feels like somewhere that is purposeful and coherent unlike the shiny and disparate attempts at campuses we see today (cough Nottingham University Jubilee Campus cough)