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Artist's passion for Anglia Square provides inspiration for exhibition

PUBLISHED: 11:54 18 October 2014 | UPDATED: 11:54 18 October 2014

American designer Michael James Lewis is campaigning for Anglia Square's architecture to be celebrated, with his exhibition 'A Love Letter for Allan Cooke'. Photo: Bill Smith

American designer Michael James Lewis is campaigning for Anglia Square's architecture to be celebrated, with his exhibition 'A Love Letter for Allan Cooke'. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant

An American artist has fallen in love with one of Norwich's least-loved areas since moving to the city, and is championing it in a new exhibition.

Entitled A Love Letter for Allan Cooke, named after Anglia Square’s architect, the exhibition starts today at Norwich Arts Centre in St Benedict’s Street.

It’s the work of Michael James Lewis, (pictured), who lives in Wodehouse Street, who is an artist with a background in architecture.

He has been working on a series of drawings and films which attempt to celebrate Anglia Square’s architectural merits, and said: “Since moving here, I have fallen in love with Anglia Square.

“While many people may agree with buildings in Britain from the 60s and 70s being demolished or threatened with demolition, it feels somewhat selfish to make such lasting decisions for future generations. If we’re not careful, we will erase an entire chapter of our architectural heritage, leaving only photographic evidence of an entire decade of building work.

“Underneath the decay of Anglia Square is the fabric of an elegant, assured structure. If approached with sensitivity, it could quite easily be transformed into a city treasure.”

He said projects with the scale and ambition of Anglia Square were rare, and compared it with the Barbican Centre in London. “Yet while the Barbican is nationally celebrated, Anglia Square is frequently maligned,” he added.

“I believe the core reason for this difference comes down to care. The Barbican Centre is well-funded and maintained, while parts of Anglia Square have been allowed to fall into disrepair.

“There are many important reasons why it’s worth trying to save Anglia Square. There is an ecological argument, as the embodied energy in the current structure and cost of demolition are both significant. There is a social argument for saving the square, as the space is an important community hub.”

The Anglia Square centre was bought in May by international investment manager Threadneedle Investments, and cost just over £7.5m – a dramatic drop on the £36m price tag it commanded less than a decade ago. The shopping complex was built in the 1960s and 1970s in an area which had been heavily bombed in the Baedeker raids during the second world war.

The exhibition runs until Saturday, December 20 – Friday 1-5pm, Saturday 10am-6pm (except November 1).

Have you fallen for an unloved part of Norwich? Email david.bale2@archant.co.uk

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