Homage to Thomas Browne on Hay Hill, Norwich by Anne & Patrick Poirier 2007
Commissioned 2005 and officially opened July 2007.
The story of 'the stones'
This piece of work, a Homage to Thomas Browne is greatly used and poorly understood by many people who live in Norwich, who daily cross the site and sit on the 'stones' to eat their lunch or meet their friends for a chat. Generally, they have no idea who Thomas Browne is, or how the sculptural stones relate to him. And they mostly don't know who the guy is on the podium outside Next who looks down over the square, with something in his hand and (usually) a pigeon on his head.
In fact, the sculpture has a very strong and compelling story and an intrinsic relationship with Thomas Browne. The artists, husband and wife team Anne & Patrick Poirier commissioned in 2005 through a stringent bidding process run by Commissions East on behalf of Arts Council England, Norwich City Council and Norfolk County Council using money earmarked for public art from the refurbishment of Norwich Market.
Originally, the artists were asked to make a piece for the main market site but as the redesign got very complicated, with market traders up in arms, the site was handed over to architect Michael Innes. As a result, the artists were asked to make a piece of work for Hay Hill instead which was an ancient market place.
They soon realised that this was the 'home patch' of Sir Thomas Browne and they designed the work as a homage to his life and work. Part of the brief was to make Hay Hill into a more enjoyable public space. The square had been neglected ad was full of ramshackle market stalls. It is a cross roads route as people move from Norwich Lanes and the market to St Stephens and from Jarrolds to Chapelfield. There was also a lack of nice places to sit in the city centre so the artists conceived a 'Living Room for the City'; the sculptures are in fact street furniture, and the lights an integral part of the work.
Just looking at the sculptures, they don't make sense to many people unless they already know about Sir Thomas. The documents on this page help to explain, or you can read more below.
The sculptures were made in an artists' workshop in Pietrasanta at the foothills of the Carrara mountains, famous for its marble (although the black granite comes from Zimbabwe). Michaelangelo had his work made in the same town, and possibly even the same stone yard which has been a family business for centuries, producing religious statuary for artists, churches and town squares. In these pictures, they are brand new and ready to be transported to Norwich.
'The World to Mee is but a Dream'
Interpretation boards from Hay Hill
The Essential Guide to Homage to Thomas Browne can be downloaded here
This is a computer modelled 3D visualisation of the work before it was installed made from drawings. It was commissioned from the Urban Modelling Team at UEA. It clearly shows the Quinconce pattern which is the structure on which the sculptures are placed.
Religio Medici (1643)
Pseudodoxia Epidemica or Vulgar Errors (1646–72)
Hydriotaphia or 'Urn Buriall' (1658) is an intriguing meditation on death and the desire for immortality.
The Garden of Cyrus (1658)
A Letter to a Friend (1656; pub. 1690) and Christian Morals offer spiritual guidance to readers, and his friend.
Quotes and references to these major works are engraved on the sculptures of Homage to Thomas Browne on Hay Hill in Norwich as well as words and phrases that he coined such as 'eternitie' and 'amphibian'.
The gold images on the backs of some of the seats are to represent the rooms and chambers of the mind, and the use of black granite references the tombstones in St Peter Mancroft Church.