Thursday, 26 November 2015

You Brute!

Photo: Evelyn Simak
For the first time since my teenage years I visited Norwich yesterday. I had remembered very little  except that there was a big market square with canvas clad stalls.  Now their coverings are somewhat more substantial.  Less picturesque maybe but I reckon the stallholders are a bit more cosy.

It's a city with the wow factor. Full of amazing buildings, a kind of sampler of architectural styles over the centuries that would make an American tourist swoon.  And then there's this place, Sovereign House.  It used to be home of Her Majesty's Stationery Office.

To visit those charity shops that I'm rather fond of we parked in this car park that's overlooked by this 1960s 'atrocity'.  'The arse end' of Norwich as my future sister-in-law called it.   The building is in a right old state, part boarded up and part smashed windows.  Apparently it's due for demolition but I'm told by a friend who's in the know that its high asbestos content makes that job problematic.

There's no questioning this building's ugliness.  Yet it took my breath away.  It's vast and it has some real quirks.  That big bulge on the top that looks like a control towere and a weird glass cylinder at the back holding a spiral staircase.

The Twentieth Century Society think that this building is an important piece of Brutalist architecture. And this got me thinking.  Understandably many see it as a  monstrosity but don't these 'carbuncles' of the sixties and seventies contribute to the narrative of this country?  They tell tales of a time in our history.   It might be a shame if they all succumbed to the wrecking ball.


  1. No doubt some spotty young architect thought it the hight of sophistication back in the 60's. You're right; it's a carbuncle.

  2. It just wants tarting up. Lick of paint, easy.

  3. I used to like going into the lanes in Norwich, the mustard shop is tiny.

  4. I rather like the building.
    If they could keep the shell get rid of the asbestos, paint it and add trees all around some outside tables and benches, I think it would be wonderful.

    cheers, parsnip

  5. looks like a cruise liner?

  6. looks like a cruise liner?