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· Aditi Saxena

A Weekend in Norfolk

A DIY celebration

On the morning of 16th July, the Cullinan Studio team headed to the coast of Norfolk, to a place called Happisburgh (pronounced “Haze-bruh”). Some travelled by car with their families, some in minivans from the office and some by train. The purpose: to celebrate Colin Rice's 60th birthday. 

Our journeys took us north-east through the British countryside, via motorways and windy country lanes. Some sang songs, others melted from the heat, until we arrived at our pit-stop in Norwich for some architectural sight-seeing at the University of East Anglia campus. 

Aside from checking out the Sainsbury building and some of the other buildings on campus, most were excited to see the ziggurat student housing, designed by Ted Cullinan whilst at Denys Lasdun’s studio in the early 1960s (shortly before founding Cullinan Studio in 1965). Located facing an open meadow, with a group of trees behind, the buildings strike an imposing form contrasting with their surroundings.

Ziggurat student housing at UEA

After lunch we continued our journey east to the coast arriving at the Happisburgh campsite mid-afternoon. Luckily the sun was shining. As people relaxed and played games, a working group headed off to meet Colin at his Norfolk ‘shack’ to begin preparation for the evening barbecue. Colin has been painstakingly (and lovingly) restoring, extending and adapting the shack with reclaimed materials over the last two decades. Having seen Colin present his designs at a number of office DIY ‘show and tell’ evenings, we were all eager to see the real deal.

Cullinan Camping

Colin's Norfolk shack

Arriving at Colin's, his hard work and that of his family and some of the year out students in preparation for the weekend (to accommodate an extra 40 people than a typical weekend) was evident. Weeks of salvaging timber (and other materials) and assembling benches, an oil-drum barbecue and a 'party shipping container' had paid off. The place was kitted out for a celebration!

The working party got stuck in straightaway helping with the food preparation. As the afternoon brought a mix of heavy showers (thank Colin for the extra shelter provided) and balmy sunshine, the guests began arriving and the party got started. There were all kinds of salads and meats on offer and even a musical session with Colin on keyboard, Amy on saxophone and Aditya playing the guitar. As the sun began to fade we took a short walk down to the beach to see the sunset – and what a sunset - before returning to more music and dessert by the fire-pits (made out of recycled washing machine drums). The party, now affectionately known as 'Colfest', continued into the night with people slowly returning through the fields, by moonlight, back to the campsite. Although not everyone managed to make the journey as some had simply got too comfortable by the fire...


Cullinans at 'Colfest'

The next morning breakfast was served after which people headed down to the beach for games, swimming and sunbathing. Some decided to visit the neighbouring architectural sights, such as the lighthouse. It was a glorious day with the sun shining and no one really wanting to return back to London. After breakfast leftovers for lunch, we made the journey back to the city. 

The weekend was a great time for seeing architecture, for team bonding and of course for celebrating. Back at the office a sketching competition was held, with people submitting postcard-sized memories from the trip. The winner, shown below, now takes pride of place on one of the walls of Colin’s Norfolk shack.

Oliver Parkinson's winning postcard

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