Anglia Square

Anglia Square is a 1960s shopping and office precinct in the northern part of Norwich’s city centre. Its retail offer is poor, and many of its buildings are empty.

A current redevelopment proposal for Anglia Square replaces the current precinct with a new precinct. It includes a new shopping centre, 1,250 homes and more than 1,500 car parking spaces in blocks of 6 to 12 storeys. At its centre is a 20 storey tower.

Historic England objects to the proposals in view of their effect both on the immediate neighbourhood of Anglia Square and on the significance of Norwich’s City Centre Conservation Area and that of many of the historic buildings within it.

They commissioned Ash Sakula to develop an alternative approach to Anglia Square, showing how its redevelopment could complement its neighbourhood and the historic cityscape of Norwich.

An aerial view of our proposal

Our approach explores a number of key themes:

Cat’s cradle of routes

A hierarchy of routes from large to small.

Different ways of getting from A to B.

Activity in the public realm makes everywhere safer and more interesting.

Routes follow desire lines

Traditional street layouts are a near infallible guide for where people want to go.

Traffic needs adapt to the street pattern, not the other way round.

Ease of movement encourages walking, enlivening the whole public realm.

Streets are places, not corridors

Streets find reasons to widen, narrow and curve.

Trees in clumps not avenues.

Significant buildings and corners are given prominence.

Pedestrian priority throughout, with cycle and car movements tamed.

Learning from Norwich

Streets come in all shapes and sizes.

Buildings are predominantly two, three and four storey, with occasional higher and larger buildings.

The urban grain is intricate, syncopated and surprising.

Learning from other places

Amsterdam: more cycles and fewer cars makes a better city.

London: slowly discovering that two way streets are nicer than one way.

Toronto: cyclists spend more money than motorists.

Freiburg: greening and sustainability adds value.

A complex mix of uses mirroring the intricacy of the traditional city

No zoning: industrial, commercial, retail and residential uses can co-exist happily.

One building can house different uses – either simultaneously or over time.

Thoughtful design solves noise, disturbance, early morning deliveries and other issues.

Convivial urban living appropriate to an inner city location... low rise high density

Sharing common utilities: garden plots, recycling places, toolsheds, cycle stores.

Avoiding corridors, lifts and common parts, bringing people out onto the street and reducing cost.

Dual aspect homes.

Smaller gardens, more shared community space.

Less concern about ‘privacy’, more about ‘community’.

Reducing car dependency

Fewer parking spaces.

More frequent buses with convenient bus stops.

Cycle friendly townscape, and lots of hoops.

Pedestrian priority throughout.

Public spaces and quiet corners

Some parts of the new Anglia Square should be busy and buzzy: bustling crowds, bright lights, laughter.

Other spaces should be calm, quieter, places of relaxation and repose.

A playful public realm for children of all ages from 8 months to 80.

A bit of the city

Anglia Square should not be a separated precinct, but a seamless part of the city of Norwich.

New routes should connect organically with existing streets.

The built form should generally match Norwich’s existing townscape in mass, height and spatial intricacy.

Exceptions to this should be for ‘special’ buildings and uses.

We ran a day-long community co-design charrette in St Augustine’s Church Hall, adjacent to Anglia Square.

We presented our initial ideas and invited all-comers to share their vision of what Anglia Square could become. Their inputs have helped form this vision for its future.

The starting point for our alternative masterplanning approach is the 1885 map of the area, displaying a medieval street pattern which remained essentially unchanged for centuries until the construction of Anglia Square and the city ring road in the 1960s.

What is clear is that the desire lines represented by the ancient alignments of Botolph Street, Middle Street, Calvert Street and the unnamed lane along the south eastern edge of the manufactory remain as valid today as when they first emerged, and they have formed the basis for our proposed layout, as shown in the plans and images here.

Anglia Square as it exists is the result of 1960s urban renewal. In line with the precepts of the time it is a precinct, separated from and to some extent isolated from its surroundings. We do not think that an appropriate planning response to the redevelopment of Anglia Square is another precinct. Rather than separating the new development from its neighbourhood, we have aimed to connect it, by means of streets which link with its surroundings, building forms that are in scale with its neighbours and, where possible, to reconnect the severances caused by the major roads around the the site, particularly on its south and west sides.

Anglia Square is close to the centre of Norwich and well-served by buses. We are proposing to limit the amount of car parking provided. This will encourage walking, cycling and public transport, helping Norwich become less car-dependent, as befits a twenty first century city. There are four surface car parks. In time, with less car-dependency, they can be developed for housing.

Anglia Square’s network of streets is permeable to cars, servicing and delivery vehicles, and emergency services. You can have things dropped off at or close to your house, but you cannot park there. All streets are shared surface, with pedestrian priority, creating a safe, attractive, playable public realm.

Botolph Street and Magdalen Street are lined with shops, cafés and restaurants with homes above. Retail units are a range of sizes, but are predominantly small, to encourage independent traders. There are three large units, one under the cinema multiplex, one on the corner of Magdalen Street and Edward Street, the third infilling the waste ground under the flyover.

On Middle Street, Calvert Street, New Street and Elephant Row are studios and workshops. Those on Elephant Row act as a buffer to the ring road flyover. Intended for artists, they have large windows facing north and a communal roof terrace.

Homes are a range of typologies. All are dual aspect, and every home has either a small garden or a large roof terrace. There are occasional five storey tower houses but the predominant urban form is made up of three storey townhouses and four storey stacked duplexes, creating streetscapes in scale with Norwich’s traditional architecture.

Every home also has its own front door onto the street. There are no common parts, lifts, shared staircases, balconies or corridors. This means that net to gross is 100%, so both the construction cost and residents’ service charges are lower. It also promotes health and wellbeing: visible activity on the street rather than hidden activity in lifts and corridors encourages chance encounters with neighbours, conviviality and the growth of an authentic community.

Materials: highly insulated walls clad in local brick with large, high-performance timber-framed windows. Roofs are green, brown or have PV panel arrays.

Anglia Square becomes an integral piece of the city of Norwich, a neighbourhood with homes, workplaces, a chapel, a cinema, supermarket, hotel and a range of independent shops, cafés and restaurants, including a rooftop sky garden with views across the city.

The approach we have developed provides the following accommodation: 595 homes; 46 shops, cafés and restaurants; a 100 room hotel; an 8 screen cinema; 48 studio workshops; a chapel; and 266 car parking spaces.

Ground floor plan. Botolph Street follows its ancient alignment and is lined by shops, restaurants and cafés, as well as a multi-screen cinema and a hotel.

Upper floor plan

Roof level plan showing roof terraces

Ash Sakula drawings photos
Ash Sakula drawings photos
Ash Sakula drawings photos
Ash Sakula drawings photos

An aerial view of Anglia Square today.

Anglia Square today: pedestrian precinct

Anglia Square today: blank unfriendly walls cold-shoulder its surroundings.

The 1885 map shows a city layout virtually unchanged since medieval times. The boundary of Anglia Square is outlined in red and blue.

Layout diagram showing heights of proposed buildings, ranging from one to five storeys.

Inspiration from Magdalen Street as it once was.