Original features

October 2, 2008

When the University of East Anglia (UEA) opened in 1963, Denys Lasdun, who was to go on to become designer of London's National Theatre, became its architect and master planner.

He wanted to create a compact campus embodying a radical new vision for higher education, where interdisciplinarity was crucial and no building was more than five minutes' walk away from any other.

Central to the project were reinforced concrete ranges of accommodation, set in crescent-shaped terraces. Although 50 were planned, only ten were built. Based on Aztec pyramids, they soon became known as the Ziggurats.

Each includes five, six or seven "habitats", consisting of 12 rooms (ten singles and two doubles) in order to produce groupings of a size Lasdun had agreed with Frank Thistlethwaite, the first UEA vice-chancellor. The Ziggurats were granted Grade II* listed status in 2003 and have recently been refurbished. Despite their "brutalist" 1960s style, they remain highly sought-after student accommodation.

This is part of a series exploring celebrated and lesser-known architectural treasures within British higher education. Suggestions most welcome: matthew.reisz @tsleducation.com.

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