Nicholas Grimshaw on Norfolk
Nicholas Grimshaw on Norfolk

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Nicholas Grimshaw on Norfolk

Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, award-winning architect behind such structures as the Eden Project and Waterloo International Station, speaks to Plinth about Norfolk - his country bolthole from hectic London life.

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Do you remember your first visit to Norfolk?

Sir Nicholas Grimshaw

We visited our friend - the theatre producer Nick Salmon - in North Norfolk and discovered a plot of land with a derelict eighteenth-century barn.

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What's your connection to Norfolk's Houghton Hall?

NG

We’ve been visiting Houghton Hall fairly regularly since 2000, when James Turrell installed his outstanding ‘Skyspace’ in the Sculpture Garden. We spend around a third of the year in North Norfolk at the converted barn, which I restored. I’ve spent the last thirty years sailing in Burnham Overy Staithe and have two restored wooden sailing boats - a 1930s Olympic sailing boat called a ‘Sharpie’ and a smaller clinker-built boat called a Twinkle 12.

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James Turrell, Skyspace at Norfolk's Houghton Hall.

We’ve been visiting Houghton Hall fairly regularly since 2000, when James Turrell installed his outstanding ‘Skyspace’ in the Sculpture Garden. We spend around a third of the year in North Norfolk at the converted barn, which I restored.

Sir Nicholas Grimshaw
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Playing inside James Turrell's Skyspace at Norfolk's Houghton Hall.

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Which cultural events stand out for you?

NG

I have been Patron of the North Norfolk Music Festival for almost fourteen years and it is a highlight of our summer. We often have music students and performers staying with us during this time. I also love walking around the Sculpture Garden at Houghton Hall, with its ‘Water Flame' fire fountain by Jeppe Hein (who also installed the hugely popular fountains outside the Royal Festival Hall) and Rachel Whiteread’s new shed - ‘Houghton Hut.'

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Jeppe Hein, Water Flame in the gardens at Houghton Hall, Norfolk.

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Rachel Whiteread, Houghton Hut in the Houghton Sculpture Garden.

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What have been the highlights this year?

NG

Listening to our great friend, the pianist Melvyn Tan, playing solos of Spanish music in the eighteenth-century Marble Hall at Holkham Hall, accompanying the amazing Amaia Azcona; walking through the Norfolk flint barns at Creake Abbey to see an exhibition of new drawings, prints and photographs by Harry Cory Wright; and the outstanding installations at the Richard Long exhibition EARTH SKY at Houghton Hall.

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Richard Long, EARTH SKY at Houghton Hall.

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Richard Long, EARTH SKY at Houghton Hall.

My Citroën DS just turned fifty, and to celebrate we went to Titchwell Manor for whiskey sours.

Sir Nicholas Grimshaw
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Which is your favourite work by Richard Long?

NG

The shimmering 'Full Moon Circle' on the lawn at Houghton Hall.

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Where do you go nearby to take a breather?

NG

My Citroën DS just turned fifty, and to celebrate we went to Titchwell Manor for whiskey sours.

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The recently 50-year-old Citroën DS.

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What are you looking forward to in 2018?

NG

Listening to Melvyn Tan’s Schubert Sonatas at the 14th North Norfolk Music Festival.

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Is there anything you would change about Norfolk?

NG

More cycle lanes would make it easier to get around.

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Give us your best anecdote!

NG

Our late friend Chris Geering was a wonderful poet and master builder, who also built our barn. He used to sing mournful (but humorous) songs at the annual review in Burnham Overy Staithe - accompanied by his beautiful twin daughters.

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Finally, any insider's tips?

NG

During the summer months, take the ferry out to Scolt Head Island for a picnic, or head to Wells beach to watch the seal colony.

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