Sainsbury Centre

Foster + Partners, Norwich, 1978


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The building seen from the lush grounds 

Ken Kirkwood (website)     Download Original

  • The building seen from the lush grounds    
  • West facade    
  • Entrance tunnel    
  • The building lit up at sunset, reflecting in the surrounding lake    
  • Entrance lit up at night    
  • Side elevation showing glazed and aluminium panels    
  • Entrance    
  • West gable end of Sainsbury centre    
  • Side elevation    
  • Looking down on the collection in the main gallery    
  • facade detail    
  • Visitors enjoy a meal in the brightly lit dining area with views overlooking the grounds    
  • Meeting spaces and breakout area on a mezzanine overlooking the main gallery    
  • Sculptures     
  • Facade solar protection    
  • View over gallery     
  • Stairs     
  • Shadow patterns    
  • Shadows cast into interior    
  • Circulation    
  • Glazed end facing the Broad    
  • Detail of gable end corner    
  • High level walkway connecting to centre    
  • Sainsbury collection exhibited in the main gallery     
  • Interior view of gallery     
  • Degas     
  • Restaurant looking west    
  • Service zone behind side wall    
  • Aerial view of the centre from the south west    
  • plan    
  • Location plan    
  • Plan    
  • Cross section    
  • Long section    
  • The building as integration of related system    
  • Isometric    
  • Concept sketch    
  • Concept sketch 1975    
  • Concept sketch 1975     
  • Environmental strategy    
  • Exploded environmental strategy    
  • Service catwalk in roof space    
  • Interchangeable panel being attached from within roof space    
  • Interchangeable panel system    
  • Typical edge section    
  • Wall section detail    
  • Roof detail    
  • Cladding panel junction    
  • Part section and elevation of lift    
  • Lift plan    
  • Exploded wall detail    

School of Fine Art and art centre to house a collection gifted to the University of East Anglia by Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury

The design incorporates structural and service elements within the double-layer walls and roof. Within this shell is a free-flowing sequence of spaces that incorporates a conservatory reception area, coffee bar, exhibition areas, the Faculty of Fine Art, senior common rooms and a restaurant.

Full-height windows at either end of the structure allow the surrounding landscape to form a backdrop to the exhibition and dining areas, while aluminium louvres, linked to light sensors, line the interior to provide an infinitely flexible system for the control of natural and artificial light.

In 1988 the building was extended to provide space for the display of the reserve collection, together with curatorial and conservation facilities and a gallery for exhibitions and conferences. The new wing extends the building at basement level, exploiting the natural contours of the site forming a glazed crescent incised into the grassy bank.

In 2004, further improvements were initiated to provide additional display space, an internal link between the main and Crescent Wing galleries, improved shop, cafe and other visitor facilities, and a new education centre.


  • Begun: 1974
  • Completed: Apr 1978
  • Floor area: 7,200m2
  • Sectors: Arts and culture, Education
  • Total cost: £3M
  • Funding: Gatsby Charitable Foundation, The Arts and Humanities Research Council, The Sainsbury Centre Endowment Fund, The University of East Anglia
  • Address: University of East Anglia, Earlham Road, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, United Kingdom

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