The new Norwich Millennium Library was built directly on the site of the old Norwich Library, which burned down to its foundation walls in 1994. This light-suffused information and cultural centre, which attracts more than two million visitors annually, was designed by Michael Hopkins and Partners, London. Architects and residents affectionately refer to the building, which wraps around an atrium, as the â€śhorseshoeâ€ť. Its magnificent, highly transparent glass faĂ§ade faces the marketplace and affords a clear view of historic Norwich Cathedral.
The aesthetically sophisticated roof structure is supported by filigreed arched steel chords, which tilt away laterally from their joint seatings, creating segmental arches that stretch diagonally across the hall. Together with the linear secondary structure, they form an enormous barrel vault, alternately covered with heat-insulated, pre-weathered tin roofing and large point-mounted insulated glass panes. A screen-printed pattern of dots reduces the heat permeability of the glazed surfaces. The micro-perforated metal panels with acoustic tiles that hang below the monolithic roof regulate the room acoustics. seele was responsible for building the entire roof structure, including the foil gutters and the introduction of rainwater into the building technology. The individual prefabricated elements are designed so that they all contain static weld lines. Structural links on the building site are created through pressure â€“ a solution that presents no structural risks and is also technically advantageous for assembly.
The entrance faĂ§ade, which is continuous from the bottom to the top, has a fixed design. Serving as its own brace, it follows the curve of the arched beam rising above it, and is connected to the roof structure at the top via collapsible bellows. Four vertical fish-bellied beams, in combination with cable-guyed pressure rods, are attached from behind to the joints of the glazing using four-armed spider clamps. In combination with the curvature of the structure, this allows wind loads to be controlled dynamically. No large-scale profiles mar the magnificent view of the marketplace and the mighty Gothic towers of the cathedral. The planning and execution of the bay windows â€“ cantilevered, glazed window elements that resemble French balconies â€“ was also an interesting undertaking. Completely prefabricated welded aluminium elements, fitted with sun protection or windows and doors that can be opened as required, were delivered to the building site, glazed and then inserted into openings in the finished brick work. It is not just the structure and the barrel roof that make Norwich Millennium Library an all-round wonder.