View from All Saints Street, illustrating the relationship of the tower to the adjacent church

Westlegate Quarter — Norwich

Client
FW Properties and Soho Estates

Collaborators
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.

 

Sketch of the key features and landmarks within the wider city centre context of the application site

Overview drawing describing the proposed site-wide material strategy

Sketch of the key features and landmarks within the wider city centre context of the application site

Upper floor plans

Exploded isometric drawing illustrating the proposed configuration of the two parts of the new building

Overview drawing describing the proposed site-wide material strategy

Overview drawing describing the components of the scheme

Visualisation of the view from Timberhill/ Castle Mall Forecourt

The new building within Lion and Castle Yard

The new look tower is surrounded by an enhanced public realm

Visualisation of the view from All Saints Green, illustrating the relationship of the tower to the adjacent church

East elevation

A new external envelope deploys a series of patterns across the façades to generate an order which responds to its role as a city scale landmark

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.

View from All Saints Street illustrating the relationship of the tower to the adjacent church

The renovation and extension of Number 20, a 17th Century Grade II listed building

Staircase within the common entrance to the residential tower

The new open plan living space of a penthouse flat

Shades of glass and metal transform the towers complexion

Detail of the external envelope of the tower

The new development at Timberhill

New pedestrian link to Westlegate House

View from All Saints Green

View from Castle Mound prior to redevelopment

Awards

  • 2016 / RIBA East Award / Winner
  • 2016 / Sunday Times British Homes Award / Shortlisted

Press

Credits
Photography by Timothy Soar and Steve Wright

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