Last edited 02 Nov 2020

Norfolk Terrace and Suffolk Terrace - 'the Ziggurats'

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Norfolk Terrace and Suffolk Terrace (the Ziggurats) teaching wall and library

University of East Anglia, Norwich


Denys Lasdun and Partners

Listed grade II* (ziggurats) and grade II, 16 October 2003

Lasdun was commissioned in 1962 to produce a master plan and the first buildings for this new university, the third after Sussex had opened the way for new foundations. A large site was chosen alongside the River Yare, from which a lake was formed only in 1975–7. Lasdun was determined to preserve this open landscape, and placed his buildings where the valley starts to rise.

Lasdun’s aim, like that of Chamberlin at Leeds, was for a ‘five-minute university’ with departmental buildings and residential accommodation close together. He thus proposed a long teaching spine flanked by students’ flats, with a library in a central green ‘dry dock’, all linked by high-level walkways. The cranked spine also symbolised the links between subject areas where academic research was concentrating in the 1960s. The concrete construction combined in situ work with panels precision-cast on site, in situ service towers projecting from Lasdun’s distinctive, crisply finished and very long horizontals.

Flats for students were cheaper than traditional halls and recognised as more progressive, with 12 students sharing a kitchen/diner and creating a supportive social grouping equivalent to that of the Oxbridge staircase. Each flat is set back and partially lowered so that its sill level meets the roof of the flat below. This stepped section and continuous profile, with each elevation at 90 degrees to the next, has led to the terraces becoming known as the Ziggurats. Only two lines of ziggurats were completed before Lasdun’s contract was terminated in 1968, but they remain the boldest architecture of any new university.

Since the listing the library has been extended, and the university continues to expand.

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This was first published in 'England's Post-War Listed Buildings' by Elain Harwood and James O. Davies. Read a review of the book and interview with Elain Harwood here.

Read other extracts from the book:

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