The Forum architects 'amazed' Norwich building not copied

The Forum, Norwich
Image caption The Forum Trust said the building had more than 2.5 million people visit it each year

The leader of the architects who developed a renowned Norfolk building said he was "amazed" other European cities had not copied its design.

The Forum, in Norwich, turned 10 years old on 1 November and celebrations are being held to mark its anniversary.

Mike Taylor, from Hopkins Architects, said its piazza design was based around a vision that "the whole would be greater than the sum of parts".

It opened on the site of the former Norwich Central Library in 2001.

A fire destroyed the original library in 1994.

The Forum, which was funded by the Millennium Commission, is now home to the city's new library along with a cafe, restaurant, learning centre, tourist information centre and Europe's largest permanent digital gallery - Fusion.

Regular events are also hosted in its atrium and the building has been the BBC's headquarters for the East of England since 2003.

The Forum Trust, which manages the building, said more than 2.5 million people entered through The Forum's doors each year.


The Millennium Library, based inside the complex, has been a high contributor to its visitor rate.

It has held the title of "most popular library in the UK" since 2006, according to figures published by Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).

Mr Taylor said Sir Michael Hopkins and his colleagues, who recently designed London's Olympic Velodrome, were all "very proud" of the building's success, which was developed with a European-feel in mind.

"You've got cafes and the pizza restaurant and the library - it all builds up this centre of gravity and it's a place with activity, and people respond to that," he said.

"It's a nice place to be and the library was always like an anchor tenant that would guarantee the success of the other endeavours in there."

Original names for the building included Technopolis and New Technopolis - a scaled-back version of the firm's initial vision for the site - before The Forum was chosen.

"I think the view was that Norwich and Norfolk had probably missed out on the first industrial revolution and wanted to put themselves at the avant-garde of the digital revolution, so this title was born," said Mr Taylor.

Before the building was constructed, a full archaeological survey of the site was undertaken, which unearthed further evidence of the city's French borough that existed between 1071 and 1075, following the Norman conquest.

Building work on The Forum began in May 1999 and was completed one month before opening in November 2001.

Image caption The Millennium Library has been the most popular in the UK since 2006, according to statistics

It was formally opened by The Queen in July 2002.

Ten years on, Mr Taylor said he had few regrets about the building's design, although he had hoped it would have been more "permeable" with 360-degree access.

He said that for reasons such as security this proposal was denied, but without the refusal, the building's grand glass entrance might not have been so well-known.

"We really wanted to do something that would be a lasting building and would endure with time, so it had an archaeological quality to it.

"We also recognised it would have different tenants over time, so we made the outside firm and rigid that would fit in with the city, and allowed much more flexibility and 'openness' on the inside.

"We always thought about it a bit like being a piazza in Italy, but unfortunately we get rain here, so we put a very big roof over it."

The Forum is hosting its 10-year anniversary celebration on Saturday, 5 November.

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