Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Sainsburys, Lewes Road seems to soar above the traffic planners nightmare that is the Vogue Gyratory with something of the detachment of a cathedral. It was built in 1985 on the site of the victorian Cox's Pill factory. The arched recesses in the front are intended to recall the arches of the victorian Lewes Road viaduct which once ran nearby and was demolished in 1976. The ground level car park is something of an ordeal for the uninitiated, but from the upper level a shopper feels insulated from the traffic mayhem & pollution below, and is provided with a view, across the valley, of the greenery of the Extra-mural Cemetery. All told the building adds a definite air of distinction to this somewhat shabby, traffic-ridden corner of the City.

Starting from the assumption that a shoebox shape is aesthetically neutral, one is driven to consider the extraordinary roofline to try to decide the merits of this building. And the first question that occurs is, "what is this tetrahedral frill for?" Is it purely decorative, or integral in some way to the structure. Or does it  conceal some functional element such as ventilation? Apparently the angled surfaces were intended to glitter in the sun but this effect seems rather marginal and it is difficult to see why we should  admire a row of tetrahedra for their own sake. I am not sure that the building quite warrants 'ugly' but it is surely bad architecture because it poses questions that it does not answer.

In an edge of town industrial estate or an out-of-town shopping precinct one would shrug ones' shoulders and pass by, but Church Road, Hove is a historic town high street. It takes the ugly arrogance of Tesco to demolish a victorian villa and a fine flint & brick wall and dump this alien monstrosity down between a victorian church and an elegant victorian terrace. 

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