No. 579 . 15 May 2013 
ArchitectureWeek

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Hopkins Architects designed Refectory and Hostry buildings on the grounds of Norwich Cathedral, artfully incorporating ancient remnants. Photo: Paul Tyagi

Hopkins at Norwich

by Rob Gregory, Paul Finch, and Michael Hopkins

Over a period of fourteen years, Hopkins Architects were responsible for the design and realization of the largest building project that Norwich Cathedral has seen since the Middle Ages.

Commissioned by the Dean and Chapter to cater to ever-increasing numbers of visitors, a new Refectory and Hostry were required. A site was identified beyond the cloister within Cathedral Close, away from a maze of existing medieval archaeology that included the foundations and porch of the original Hostry and the original Refectory wall.

Hopkins, however, proposed a strategy based on the formal and functional recreation of the buildings in their original locations, not as replicas but as new spaces that could carry forward the memories of the originals and extend the Benedictine traditions of hospitality and education.

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Branching columns elegantly support the roof of new space at Norwich Cathedral. Photo: Richard Davies

Through this, a masterplan was proposed that would use the integration of these newly revived functions to restore the coherence of the Cathedral cloister as the heart of the entire Cathedral precinct.

Building Among the Ruins

Initially an elaborate and technically sophisticated solution was proposed to bridge over the original foundations, but detailed archaeological studies showed that a more low-tech solution was possible, with carefully positioned pad foundations and embedded steel reinforcement that would enable the reconstruction of the Hostry wall in its original location.

The choice of stone was key, since the architects wanted to communicate the public nature of these new buildings with a grain of masonry that would sit somewhere between the fine ashlar of the Cathedral and the flint more commonly associated with local domestic architecture.   >>>

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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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