FW Properties and Soho Estates
Rossi Long Consulting / B SD / Bremner Partnership / Davis Langdon and Lanpro
This project involved the redevelopment of the 11-storey Westlegate Tower, one of Norwich’s most high profile buildings, together with its immediate urban setting, blighted by the creation of the tower in the early 1960s.
The site spans from Westlegate to Timberhill, encompassing a diverse range of landscapes and buildings. It contains the tower itself, a listed 17th Century building (20 Westlegate) and a surface car park on Timberhill – all of which lie adjacent to the churchyard of the Grade I listed All Saints Church.
The tower’s original promoters described it as “a pencil of light”: an optimistic symbol of the city’s modernity. After some years in use as offices, the building fell into disuse during the construction of the adjacent Castle Mall. The building’s final tenant – a McDonalds restaurant – moved out in 2005. The vacant building caused much controversy within the city, and the city’s planning policy called for its demolition.
The mothballed Westlegate tower was purchased in a joint venture by Norwich-based FW Properties and Soho Estates. Our brief, having won the project through competitive interview, was to explore how the site might be creatively reimagined as a mixed use city block.
Rather than demolish the tower, we proposed to make it more appropriate to its setting in Norwich – the ‘city of towers’ – and to deliver for the City planners the desired urban connectivity which the tower had obliterated. The project involved adding an additional 3 storeys – creating a new ‘crown’ for the building which increased the verticality of the previously squat tower. The new envelope deploys a series of patterns across its facades in order to provide an overall coherence and elegance to the tower - downplaying the incidental consequences of its occupation in favour of an order which responds to its role as a city-scale landmark. In turn, the new apartments each occupy a single floor plate and benefit from spectacular 360 degree views across the city.
The cladding envelope was designed within the tight budget constraints of standard curtain walling, but by using a variety of glass finishes, metal mesh, and cover strips, a skin was developed that changes radically with light conditions and the aspect from which the tower is viewed.
The re-making of the tower is supported by a renegotiation of the way that it meets the ground and the surrounding urban fabric, re-discovering the lost Lion & Castle Yard as a public thoroughfare between Westlegate & Timberhill.