Norwich Cathedral and its adjacent cloister is a renowned historic monument drawing large numbers of tourists and the faithful. The Cathedral Chapter first tackled the question of improving visitor facilities in the Seventies, realising a series modernisation projects.
The latest intervention, developed by the Hopkins Partnership, involved the refurbishment and reconstruction of the south and west wings of the cloister. While reflecting contemporary architectural design, the project takes its cue from the ancient traditions of worship, hospitality and teaching of the Benedictine monks who managed the cloister in the Middle Ages.
New spaces have been super-posed or integrated into the ancient cloister structure, site of the former Refectory and Hostry, or guest hall. Heritage conservation restrictions and the condition of the ancient architecture required all add-ons be extremely lightweight and positioned with the utmost accuracy. As a result, the new outer glazed walls on the upper level rest on a stone sill in turn supported by the pre-existing walls. The much heavier roof loads are carried by new timber and steel structures, which stand clear of the medieval wall lines.
The harmonious juxtaposing of ancient fabric and contemporary architecture is a key feature of the whole programme. The new sits easily alongside the old; no attempt has been made to meld the two. The palette of materials and technologies is equally measured and energy-efficient: oak for flooring, interior cladding and infills; local limestone to complete existing masonry structures; high-performance glazing for full-height transverse and side walls, the latter shielded by wooden louvers; insulated roofs and floor slabs, and naturally ventilated environments.
The west wing, site of the ancient Hostry, now houses spaces for community activities and meetings, an auditorium and chamber music concert hall. The south entrance to the cloister and library, the kitchens, services and offices are located on the ground floor of the new south wing. The upper level is given over to a cafeteria, a modern version of the refectory. The library remains in the original historic fabric.
A “timber” box containing all the new facilities in the south wing stands free of the cloister walls. To either side, timber and steel columns prop the roof above.