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When Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury donated their private art collection (including many works by Francis Bacon and Giacometti) to the University of East Anglia, together with an endowment fund for a new building, it was decided to enlarge the brief to make the Sainsbury Centre an academic and social focus in the University. Accordingly, the building encompasses not only the Sainsbury's Collection of primitive and 20th century art and a temporary exhibition space, but also a conservatory, restaurant, senior common room and the faculty of fine art. All these activities are grouped within a single, clear span structure, glazed at both ends, and lit from above by a controlled mixture of natural and artificial light. A basement spine provides the necessary storage and workshop facilities. An intergrated panel and primary structure enables any part of the external walls and roof to be changed quickly in order to provide the different combinations of glazed, solid or grilled aluminium panels. The entire inner wall and ceiling lining is a system of aluminium louvres which are motorised and linked to external and internal light sensors to provide a sophisticated control system. Artificial lighting on ceiling tracks eliminates disruption to the gallery layout. At each end, the steel structure is clearly articulated. A major expansion of the Centre, the Crescent Wing, was commissioned by Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury in 1988.

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Further information about monuments may be obtained by contacting Archive Services, through the Historic England website.