Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich. 
24 March – 2 September 2018. 

Opened in 1978, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts was the practice’s first cultural project, and one that embraced several themes that have remained at the core of our unique design approach – a strong belief in the integration of architecture and engineering, a commitment to low-energy, sustainable design, and a never-ending drive towards innovation.

It was a project that challenged several existing preconceptions about museums, breaking the traditional mould with a ‘museum without walls’. The immense influence of its radical approach –the all-encompassing building envelope, its relationship with the surrounding landscape, and the pioneering principles of social integration – can still be seen in some of the practice’s most recent projects, such as the Mexico City International Airport, Apple Park and the recently opened Bloomberg Headquarters in London.

Norman Foster, Founder and Executive Chairman, Foster + Partners said: “The Sainsbury Centre was a pivotal project not just for what was a fledgling practice at the time, but as a complete reimagination of what a cultural institution could be. Everything was radical about it – from its location in the wilderness of the UEA campus, next to the science buildings to encourage cross-fertilisation, to the creation of a single enclosure that was a technological, ecological and social condenser. It was also a quest for beauty – to sit lightly and elegantly on its site with an interior that captured the landscape of its setting, the poetry of natural light, and above all a fitting setting for the Sainsbury’s magnificent collection.”

To mark the occasion the centre is hosting a major exhibition to shine a light on developments in architecture from the 1960s to the 1990s. Superstructures: The New Architecture 1960-1990 tells the story of architecture's fascination in the post-World War Two decades with new technology, lightweight structures, pioneering building techniques and innovative engineering solutions.

The exhibition features several Foster + Partners projects including the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Headquarters, Hong Kong, Stansted Airport, London, Century Tower, Tokyo, Willis Faber and Dumas Headquarters, Ipswich, Renault Centre and Reliance Controls in Swindon, Carre d’Art, Nimes and the Tecno table, through a range of fascinating objects from drawings and paintings, models, furniture and product design to photographs and film, from various sources including the Foster + Partners collection, the Norman Foster Foundation, as well as items from the Sainsbury Centre’s own collection.


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