Source: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts on Facebook.

It’s been two years since the Avengers occupied the Sainsbury Centre of Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia, but the recent launch of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming gave the iconic building another fifteen minutes of fame as the HQ of the popular superhero fraternity. The Sainsbury Centre previously appeared in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), enhanced to include a helipad and a landing zone for the group’s Quinjet aircraft.

Civil War

Spider-Man: Homecoming is the first instalment in the franchise to feature Tom Holland in the starring role, although the actor did make an appearance as Spidey in Captain America: Civil War. The film tells the story of Peter Parker’s efforts to live life as a student while, at the same time, defeating bad guys as a web-slinging man-spider and competing with the ego of his mentor, Tony Stark (Iron Man). Parker also has a love interest in Michelle Jones, played by the mononymous actress Zendaya.

Reviews of the movie have been positive so far, continuing the long-running theme of critical success within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Of the 19 MCU movies listed on the Rotten Tomatoes website, ten of them earned a rating of more than 80%. Homecoming, on 92%, is tied with the first Avengers film for cinematic excellence. Only Iron Man’s debut earned more praise from critics; Robert Downey Jr’s most famous character racked up a 94% rating in his first outing.

Source: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts on Facebook.

Slot Games

Superheroes have become a cornerstone of popular culture over the past decade so, as a building serving mostly young people, the Sainsbury Centre’s newfound fame is an obvious asset. Outside movies, there are a number of video games based on Marvel and DC’s characters, including the Lego-branded Marvel’s Avengers and Arkham series of Batman titles. But superheroes can evidently fit in anywhere, as evidenced by the number of characters that have their images on men’s underpants.

Recently, a range of slot machine games based on DC properties like Batman (in particular, the 1966 TV series starring the late Adam West), Green Lantern, and the Man of Steel movie have appeared on the website of Sun Bingo, a British iGaming website. The brand, which usually specializes in 90, 80, and 75-ball bingo, also has a slot game inspired by Christopher Reeve’s Big Blue Boy Scout, in Superman: The Movie.

Pablo Picasso

While never enjoying as much screen time as Captain America and co., the Sainsbury Centre is fortunate to have a modicum of fame outside Hollywood. Designed by architect Norman Foster, the building’s standing as a fixture of modern pop culture is a little ironic; the Centre is more than thirty years old, finding its way to the drawing board in 1974 and opening in 1978. Today, it consists of two buildings linked by an internal walkway.

Source: Source: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts on Facebook.

When it’s not serving the Avengers, the Sainsbury Centre looks after art and ancient artefacts from the past 5,000 years, including examples of the abstract, art nouveau, and constructivist schools of art, by artists like Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, and Alberto Giacometti. The Centre also exhibits idols, ceramics, and 97 pieces of silver organised into collections named after donors and, of course, Robert and Lisa Sainsbury.

Green Screen

The slightly disappointing news for local fans is that, this time around, the Avengers didn’t make an appearance on site (many of the scenes in the original film, and especially over Manhattan, were shot using green screen) and neither did any set dressers. Marvel simply re-used the Age of Ultron footage of the Sainsbury Centre for Homecoming. The cast was present in 2014, though, and extras could audition for roles for the movie from within the university.

Unlike the Avengers HQ, Stark Tower, one of the other structures made famous by the film, is not based on a real New York high-rise. However, it appears to have been built on top of the MetLife building in the Age of Ultron movie, and strongly resembles the Bitexco Financial Tower in Vietnam; at least, in its upper quadrant, it does. Sadly, the goliath Helicarrier is strictly an invention of the comic books.

In any case, it’s encouraging to see local buildings immortalised in media that has a global reach. There’s obvious potential for Norwich Castle as the seat of an evil genius, too.