The centre of the city is full of destinations of all kinds – civic, commercial, sporting, educational, spiritual and medical.
Norwich’s long history means that many buildings have multiple functions and deep cultural resonance. The Halls are a venue for concerts and events but they also host election counts and were originally a monastic complex. The National Centre for Writing occupies Dragon Hall, a fifteenth century merchant’s home next to the river on King Street. The Castle has been a royal residence, prison and art gallery.
In recent years the city centre has been enriched by the growing presence of educational institutions and students living and studying there. In particular, the Norwich University of the Arts has expanded from its core on St Georges Street to buildings on Duke Street and Princes Street. The creative zest of their students is palpable in the streets and public spaces where they hang out, such as St Georges Green in front of the Playhouse.
What these buildings and others also have in common is the way public space serves them. Streets and squares provide access to the front door but also a setting for people to gather and admire the beautiful buildings. Seeing the Castle can relieve the boredom of waiting for a bus on Castle Meadow. Free street performances outside St Georges Church in the Lanes enliven summer evenings. Millennium Plain is a favourite place for young people to meet their friends outside the Forum.
Thousands surge down to Carrow Road once a fortnight on the way to the match. The relationship between the Anglican Cathedral and the Upper and Lower Close is symbiotic.
These special buildings are embedded within the shopping area. Norwich’s retail draws people from across the region. The shops are concentrated in a web of streets forming an arc to the north, west and south of the Castle and along the routes that extend towards some of the old gateways into the city – St Giles, St Benedicts, Magdalen and St Augustines. Prince of Wales Road links to the train station where over four million people each year arrive and depart.
The diversity of retail experience is reflected in the contrast between the cluster of interdependent business in the Lanes with Jarrolds department store as the anchor, and the national multiples present in St Stephens Street and the two shopping centres – Chapelfield and the Castle Quarter.
What brings people to Norwich to shop is not only retail quality and diversity but the experience of exploring the city and discovering other things on a visit. People working in offices and the increasing numbers of people living in the city centre are also fundamental to its economic vitality. The network of public spaces binds these activities.