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UNIVERSITY OF EAST ANGLIA

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In 1962 Denys Lasdun was commissioned to produce a masterplan for a 'New University' to be built on a site outside Norwich, on fields bordering the River Yare. The brief for the University of East Anglia called for a break with past habits as there were to be no separate departments, but 'schools of study' in which inter-disciplinary boundaries would be deliberately blurred. It was also decided that the university should be residential in emphasis and that the site should be compact, with all activities within five minutes walk of each other which produced the theme of 'linkage' by pedestrian routes including elevated walkways. The site of water, marsh, slope, trees, meadow and parkland, was a major inspiration in the form of the university. Lasdun decided to keep it that way and graft the buildings onto the natural features. The most prominent feature are the stepped residences, arranged in wide arcs to fit the contours. To the rear is a single strip containing the 'schools', known as the 'teaching wall'. The heart of the scheme was an open, green space, which defined the visual and social focus which Lasdun called the 'landlocked harbour'. The library, common rooms, shops and other shared facilities were made rectangular and set at main junctions in such a way that they aligned with the prevelant geometrical directions. Overall, Lasdun was not thinking of the university as a series of isolated objects dotted around fields, or an ersatz Oxbridge of courtyard buildings stranded in vacuum, but as a continuous range of urban landscape in which spaces between were considered as positively as important as the buildings themselves. This landscape vocabulary of platforms, terraces, stepped sections, etc is evident in Lasdun's other work which includes the National Theatre, London. The plan also allowed for future growth without loss of coherence which is evident in the University's expansion over the last 25, overseen by Rick Mather Architects.

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