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    Hopkins at Norwich


    Barnack ragstone was selected and used both for the new Hostry wall and to repair the Refectory wall, laid as it was pulled out of the field, in carefully selected but essentially random as-found shapes and sizes that would allow the existing archaeology to be clearly read.

    With the original foundations and walls unable to bear the additional load, both Hostry and Refectory have independent timber structures of laminated oak columns, capped with turned stainless-steel spherical bosses that branch out with four diagonal oak finger props.

    These in turn support the rigid roof planes, which extend tie-free over the boundary walls without exerting any imposed loads. The architect then inserted oak-clad enclosures and steel mezzanines that provide additional structural stability and an enclosure for essential new services, expertly and ingeniously integrated into this sensitive setting.

    Along with strategic improvements that include broader connections within the precinct, transformation of visitor facilities, and a new entrance to the existing library, these two new buildings do their job quietly without challenging the Cathedral in any way, repairing, reforming, and reconnecting the previously ruined south-west corner of the Cathedral precinct.

    They also provide essential new facilities, with the Refectory elevating a 150-seat dining hall above a new kitchen and lavatory block, and the Hostry containing exhibition space, education room, Cathedral Song School and choir rehearsal spaces, and a large community room, all accessed through the original porch, physically and symbolically extending the Cathedral's 915-year history.

    Hopkins Design Philosophy

    Regardless of location, scale, budget, or type, there is something in the DNA of a Hopkins building — something at its heart, in its bones and in its figure — that brings distinction and character to the work. Across an increasingly extensive range of buildings, there are traits and characteristics in how spaces are planned, in how sections inform elevations, in how materials combine, in how corners turn, and in how structures define places that share a distinctive family resemblance.

    Since it began in 1976, Hopkins Architects has been led by founding partner Sir Michael Hopkins, who traces back the genetic thread of the practice's architecture to a number of key defining experiences. Initially working on two self-initiated domestic projects with wife, Patty, the rescue and restoration of their sixteenth-century timber-framed house at Craftfield in Suffolk in the early 1960s introduced them to the realities of construction and instilled within them the desire to produce buildings that look the way they do because of the way they are built.


    This was followed by the radical innovation of a twentieth-century small-section steel frame at the now seminal Hopkins House in Hampstead, which in turn led to the Greene King, Patera, Broadley Terrace, and Schlumberger Centre projects.

    After this came projects like Lord's, where they went further still, not only learning about the technicalities of Victorian brickwork but also, more significantly, realising that character and ambience were just as significant as structure and detail, with the Mound Stand chiming with Lord's main pavilion, expressing the sense of an English summer's day in brick, steel, glass and tensile fabric.

    Through this legacy Hopkins had derived an entirely new language for late twentieth-century British modernism, which attracted a committed team of like-minded architects that included the five senior partners he works with today, all of whom cite a shared interest in materials (new and old), design (innovative and traditional) and placemaking (urban and rural) as their reason for joining the firm.

    The majority came at the point when the practice first began truly to deviate from the path followed by most other protagonists of British High-Tech, and even at this relatively early moment it was clear that Hopkins' architecture had taken a different path, in pursuit of a new mode of expression that engaged more directly with issues of context, history and place-making.

    Together, they maintain this pursuit today, continuing to test and stretch the potential of traditional materials and natural elements such as stone, timber, lead and bronze with the same level of innovation previously applied to use of man-made materials like steel, glass and fabric.

    Their body of work has given generations of architects a radically different sourcebook from those offered by other contemporaries. It has been impossible to attribute a style or '-ism' to the practice's buildings, so it is only by taking a long view that we are able to frame Hopkins' work, as an entirely new pedigree in British modernity. It takes its place in a lineage of design thinking that begins with the great British engineer Brunel and runs through the nineteenth- and twentieth-century work of Joseph Paxton, Edwin Lutyens and Owen Williams, with Romanesque and Gothic origins brought up to date in the spirit of the Functionalist tradition identified by Eric de Maré's photographs, published in the Architectural Review.

    Reflecting on the third decade of the practice's evolution and its current work, we see the Hopkins practice transformed into a truly international, twenty-first-century business. It has stepped up to the challenges of more competitive markets at home and abroad, more than doubling its portfolio of completed buildings and extending its reach to new regions of the world.

    Each new building demonstrates how the practice's architectural gene has mutated in response to new typologies, such as healthcare and higher education, and to the challenges associated with moving into new territories such as Japan, the Middle East and the USA.   >>>

    Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...



    Rob Gregory is a British architect and Senior Editor at The Architectural Review.

    Paul Finch is Program Director of the World Architecture Festival and Editorial Director of The Architectural Review and Architects' Journal magazines.

    Sir Michael Hopkins is a well-known British architect and is, with his wife Patricia Hopkins, joint founding partner of Hopkins Architects.

    This article is excerpted from Hopkins 3 by Rob Gregory, Paul Finch, And Sir Michael Hopkins, copyright © 2012, with permission of the publisher, Prestel.


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    ArchWeek Image

    The new Norwich Cathedral Hostry occupies the location of the original hostry building, incorporating the historic porch into a new composition.
    Photo: Paul Tyagi Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Where the existing wall had fallen, a new southern entrance has been created, leading left into the Norwich Cathedral Refectory, with a new entrance to the existing library at an upper level to the right.
    Photo: Paul Tyagi Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Norwich Cathedral ground-floor plan drawing.
    Image: Hopkins Architects Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    In the Norwich Cathedral Refectory building, a 150-seat dining hall occupies the upper level, with views of the landscape and of an adjacent stone wall of the cloister.
    Photo: Richard Brine Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Refectory cross-section drawing, looking west.
    Image: Hopkins Architects Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Sitting between the cloister and precinct wall, the lower level of the Norwich Cathedral Refectory contains the kitchen, staff areas and public lavatories. These are accessed through this dramatic space between new and old.
    Photo: Richard Davies Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Hostry longitudinal section drawing, looking east.
    Image: Hopkins Architects Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Hopkins 3 by Rob Gregory, Paul Finch, And Sir Michael Hopkins.
    Image: Prestel Extra Large Image


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