Pablo Fanque House, Norwich by Carson and Partners
Pablo Fanque House is a new-build student residential accommodation building in Norwich city centre incorporating 244 student bedrooms plus associated social and amenity spaces. The client brief also included an area of leasable flexible office space, new landscaped courtyard with bicycle parking to the rear, and the development is entirely car-free.
Constructed in RC concrete frame over an 18-month contract the project accommodated a number of value engineering solutions.
The site, located on a high-rise ‘island’ of Aviva office development, provided an opportunity to close an obvious void in the urban grain and create a bold building that has a strong presence on All Saints Green. The specific shape of the site and its immediate surroundings informed the basic site diagram where the accommodation is focused along the street edge on the east and the green amenity space is located at the rear of the building as the gardens of the earlier houses would have been. The proposal had to mediate between the requirements of the historic buildings of the conservation area in which it sits and the 20th Century development of the Aviva buildings.
The façade design is intended to create an appearance of a carved and sculpted volume. Openings of varying proportions within a considered pattern help to visually break down the overall scale of the building mass. The fenestration introduces a hierarchy within the building - the deep recessed openings signify social areas and the smaller shallower openings reflect the more intimate bedroom spaces.
The building is entered through a grand foyer set back behind a double-height colonnade and is crowned with an open perforated structure on the top floor, that surrounds the student common room, with panoramic views over Norwich and the surrounding countryside. The choice of masonry material, the brick which is the increasingly ubiquitous ‘marziale’ from Wienerberger, stems from this material having a strong history and reputation in and around Norwich architectural heritage.
Equally, it provides a material that emphasizes the solidity of the sculpted building mass – the primary layer of the building envelope. A number of studies have been prepared during the design development process to test various brick alternatives and identify the suitable type and colour. The proposed selection of pale brick of varying colour shades creates a textured yet light envelope that follows a number of inspirational precedents, the pale render of the previous cinema building and some of the listed buildings opposite as well as the pale stone with colour variation of some taller historic structures around Norwich city centre.
Additionally and following analysis of different brick alternatives, the visual perception of the light coloured brick in comparison with a dark brick helps to balance out the massing and scale of the building. The stepped roofline of the building reflects the variation of heights of the Georgian listed buildings on the opposite side of the street.
The intention was to create a lasting building of robust stature that would contribute strongly to the future evolution of the city in a positive way.