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Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

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Architectural style
High-tech architecture

Norman Foster

Art gallery and museum


+44 1603 593199

Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

UEA, Norwich, England, UK

University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK

Open today · 9AM–6PMTuesday9AM–6PMWednesday9AM–6PMThursday9AM–6PMFriday9AM–6PMSaturday10AM–5PMSunday10AM–5PMMondayClosedSuggest an edit

Felbrigg Hall, RAF Air Defence Radar Mu, East Ruston Old Vicarage, Norwich Castle, The Broads


Sainsbury centre for visual arts museum of the year 2014 finalist

The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is an art gallery and museum located on the campus of the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England. The building, which contains a collection of world art, was one of the first major public buildings to be designed by the architect Norman Foster, completed in 1978. The building became grade II* listed in December 2012.


Sainsbury centre for visual arts context fann xi


The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts building was opened in 1978. It was designed between 1974 and 1976 by the then relatively unknown architect Norman Foster (now Lord Foster). According to Chris Abel, the building exemplifies Foster's early work of "a regular structure embracing all functions within a single, flexible enclosure, or 'universal space'" where "the design is all about allowing for change, internally and externally." The Sainbury Centre also demonstrates Foster's characteristic work methods of "design development", or "integrated design". It is situated on the western edge of the university's campus, beside the River Yare, and also houses the School of World Art Studies and Museology. Foster said of the building "A building is only as good as its client and the architecture of the Sainsbury Centre is inseparable from the enlightenment and the driving force of the Sainsburys themselves and the support of the University of East Anglia."

The main building is sited on sloping, turfed ground, and consists of a large cuboid, clad steel structure. One face is almost entirely glazed, with the prefabricated skeleton clearly visible. Internally, the museum gives the impression of being one vast open space, lacking any internal divisions to interfere with the interplay of natural and artificial light. Services, lighting, toilets and maintenance access are housed in triangular towers and trusses, and between the external cladding and internal aluminium louvres.

By the late 1980s the collection had outgrown its accommodation, and Foster was asked to design an extension. Rather than simply extending the existing structure as had been envisaged 15 years earlier, it was decided to look below ground. The sloping site allowed for an enlarged basement to emerge at a curved glass frontage overlooking a man-made lake (an echo of the nearby 13th century Norfolk Broads). There is little clue of the extent of the new wing, except when viewed from the position of this lake. The crescent wing was built by Anthony Hunt Associates and opened in 1991.

Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection

In 1973 Sir Robert Sainsbury and Lady Lisa Sainsbury donated to the university their collection of over 300 artworks and objects, which they had been accumulating since the 1930s. The collection has since increased in size to several thousand works spanning over 5000 years of human endeavour, including pieces by Jacob Epstein, Henry Moore (numerous sculptures can be found dotted around the grounds of the university), Alberto Giacometti, and Francis Bacon, alongside art from Africa (including a 'Fang Reliquary Head' from Gabon and the Nigerian 'Head of an Oba'), Asia, North and South America, the Pacific region, medieval Europe and the ancient Mediterranean.

Filming Location

In June 2014 the Centre was used for filming several scenes of the motion picture Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man.


Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts Wikipedia

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