Landmarks: Sainsbury Centre

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The Independent Culture
The Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, at the University of East Anglia in Norwich is an exemplary modern building. It was designed by Sir Norman Foster and is set in a superb green landscape. It is in no way a typical art gallery, representing a fairly unique example of patronage that is fast disappearing from this country.

The exterior consists of white aluminium panels interspersed with sections of glazing, the panels curving at the top to become the roof. The silver panels are very striking, as is the internal lighting which is controlled by louvre blinds. Despite its size externally, its interiors are quite intimate. It provides a calm atmosphere where you are invited to wander through a diverse collection of works of art, chosen simply because they appealed to the collector, Sir Robert Sainsbury.

It opened in April 1978 and I think it has stood the test of time. It is a supreme example of a machine aesthetic and with its dynamic, sleek design is more akin to motorcar styling.

You enter through a glass lobby and find yourself in a single space with views straight out onto the fields through a canopy of internal trees. The permanent collection is screened by walls just over a metre high and so as you enter you can see all the exhibits.

To me it breaks down some of the barriers that hinder our enjoyment of art. It is not a shrine, it is very informal.

I think you either love or hate it, but for me it is a brilliantly crafted, forward looking building.

David Ridel trained at the University of Bristol and is a partner with Lambert Scott and Innes in Norwich. The gallery is open Tue-Sun 12.00-5.00pm.

(Photograph omitted)

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