New Links Old With Norwich Container Mall
Container mall to fill in a ‘tear’ in central Norwich, in Eastern England.
The ancient UK city of Norwich is in a period of regeneration and re-growth, and a shipping container mall in place for the next decade is planned to ‘sew up a tear’ in the city – the motorway flyover that links the centre with the outside world.
Container malls in cities
Shipping container malls are widely seen as solutions for temporary development problems where vacant land is an eyesore. The containers can be converted into new uses such as shops and restaurants off-site and then dropped into place. This makes for a large development that attracts people to sites that have been largely ignored by the public.
Containers are cheap to install and are often very attractive to businesses seeking a ‘popup’ tester venue for their concept. With experimental bistros and clothes shops, when successful they can be a strong draw to the younger, ‘hipster’ generation who value the post-industrial appearance and trying new things within these malls.
Not all are successful – there have been well documented failures in the UK and around the world where overall business planning has been wanting. Well planned container malls have a better chance of success, if a conservative mix of successful and experimental shops and restaurants sit side by side.
Norwich – Magdalen Street
In January this year the BBC reported, “A report to the planning committee said the flyover had been “cutting a tear in the heart of the street” since it was built in the 1960s.”
The new plans are for this tear to be sewn up: “The two storey elements create a sense of overlooking and theatre in the space, the graphics help to cement its identity as a youthful and lively place and the lighting will give the space a delightful feel at night.”
Some 50% of the site is to be given over to food and drink outlets so it is a vibrant location most hours of the day and night in the otherwise sleepy Eastern market city.
Chris Ward, one of the developers behind the project, Columbia Threadneedle, told the local Eastern Daily Press: “Under the Flyover will be a vibrant and creative new space for Norwich. We will be encouraging local independent businesses, stores and pop-ups to join us.”
The same planning meeting got quite heated over Colombia Threadneedle’s other plans to redevelop nearby Anglia Square, but there was almost unanimous love for the container mall.
That goes to show that even a city that sells itself on its heritage and deep history can be excited about something that really only has been around as a concept in the last 10-15 years.
The organisation Historic England is one of those bodies you would expect to object, but no: it is in full support on the basis that the site is only used over 10 years.
“As a permanent solution this is perhaps not a design which reflects the historic character of the surrounding conservation area, but as an initiative to show how an initially unappealing space can be brought into positive use it is to be supported,” said David Eve, of Historic England.
New links old?
It is interesting that a shipping container mall, firmly rooted in the new Millennium, can be so warmly welcomed in a city that wishes its 1000+ years of history to be appreciated more. That really shows that container architecture is really maturing in the world of today. Could other conservative-minded planners around the world be equally accepting of this concept? It would certainly be worth pushing hard in future cargotecture development plans…
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