Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Top posts in May '11

Withdean Stadium moves on. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .106 views

The Amex Stadium from the Beacon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91 views

Hove Station - then & now . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .72 views

Redevelopment of the London Road Coop. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .66 views

Monday, 30 May 2011

"Funny Birds" at the Level.

The aftermath of a performance "Drôles d’Oiseaux et Blaxon Art" at the Level by the French street theatre company, Générik Vapeur, joined by partners from the ZEPA network. Générik Vapeur is based in Marseille, ZEPA stands for the "European Zone of Artistic Projects"

Marseille-Provence has been selected as European Capital of Culture in 2013. Throughout that year, hundreds of cultural and artistic events will take place in Marseille and the surrounding area involving
all artistic and cultural disciplines: contemporary dance, music, visual arts, theatre, exhibitions, street performances, symposia, literature, digital arts, gastronomy, cinema: a cultural programme combining "exceptional artistic excellence and popular participation". Nice :)

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Redevelopment of the London Road Co-op

Prospective developers have exhibited early proposals to demolish the elegant, 1930's building and replace it with 400 student housing units with retail on the ground floor. Irrespective of the architectural merits of the replacement, or the desirability of student housing in this concentration in this particular area, prior concerns arise.

The developer claims that conversion of the existing building is unviable but fails to provide any supporting evidence for this statement. One might ask unviable for what? Is conversion simply "unviable" in relation to the amount of profit they hope to make or just for student housing? It was claimed that the Royal Alexandra Hospital could not be viably converted to housing yet after a long-running campaign by local amenity societies and residents, and a costly public enquiry, Wimpey was finally persuaded that a sensitive conversion of the historic main building to apartments was feasible and an important feature of the Dyke Road streetscape was saved for posterity. 

The developer also claims that the replacement building will be to high standards of sustainability but, of course, neglects  the inherent unsustainability and waste of demolishing a large, high-quality building, carting away scores of lorry loads of rubble to dump in land-fill 50 miles away, and then rebuilding with new masonry, newly-felled timber, newly-mined metals. Nor is it required of developers to concern themselves with the extra disruption to shoppers, residents and traffic that rebuilding would cause compared with conversion.

It seems unfortunate that the city planning department has not been able or willing to give the prospective developer any overarching guidance on these matters.

Friday, 27 May 2011

P Z Myers coming to Brighton

'PZ', as he is affectionately known, an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Minnesota  has, through his blog Pharyngula, become  almost as famous as Richard Dawkins as the scourge of creationists, and apologists for 'intelligent design', pseudoscience and superstitious belief systems everywhere. His blog averages over 13,000 hits per day which peaks to 25,000 when he really gets going on some item of creationist propaganda, (which seems thankfully to be more prevalent in the USA than here).

He is a speaker much sought after on the sceptic, 'new' atheist, circuits and the Brighton branch of "Skeptics in the Pub" seems to have achieved something of a scoop in getting him to give a talk at the 'Caroline of Brunswick'. The inhabitants of the "most godless city in Britain" have certainly risen to the occasion: all tickets for his talk on Tuesday 7th June are sold out.

Church Street

There is  a pleasing conjunction of different sets of horizontals in this view which suggests that modern architecture does not inevitably mar a streetscape: but the scene would be significantly the poorer without the 150 year-old Waggon & Horses as counterpoint. . .  However, the Waggon & Horses will  soldier on into the indefinite future, whereas the still modern-looking American Express building is reaching the end of its economic life and may disappear within a relatively few years. The replacement Amex building can just be seen topping-out beneath the cranes on the left.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

I do like to be beside the seaside . .

A Festival Fringe concert at St.Bartholomews church. Now in its 8th year. Not to be missed . . .

New Amex building takes shape

At the north-east corner of the site at the junction of Mighell Street & Carlton Hill the building will have its lowest elevation above street level. Elsewhere it rises to 8 storeys above John Street and has two basement levels below. As far as this corner is concerned I think I am going to like the set-back upper floors and the stepped curves at the far end.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

View of Hove

This oil, c.1850, by George Hilditch (1803 - 1857) may well have been inspired by the view west from the high ground of the "Wicks", now known as Furze Hill, which is about 150 feet above sea-level. St. Andrew's Church is unmistakeable and assuming some pictorial license was used, the house with the haystacks is probably Wick Farm. Just beyond the church can be seen Hove Street, the original village, with Hove Manor House conspicuous.

Hilditch was known as "The Richmond Painter" for his views of the Thames around Richmond and Twickenham. His work, with that of others, was responsible for imprinting the scenic value of the view from Richmond Hill on the public consciouness, such that all attempts by developers to intrude on the view have, to date, been successfully resisted. No such luck with Hove of course and probably, in the real world, development of the Sussex coastal plain was inevitable. However it would have been good if historic town & village boundaries had at least been symbolically preserved by the creation of narrow green belts. 

Hilditch regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy, Royal Society of British Artists and won medals from the Society of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce. He was also a pioneer of photography. In 1852 he exhibited 20 prints at the Society of Arts in London.

"View of Hove" in Hove Museum was purchased for £1800 in 1987 with the help of a grant of £450 from the Art Fund.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The new GREEN City Council

Appointments made at the Annual Council Meeting on 19 May 2011, following  the local elections on 5th May, were as follows:-

Council Leader:-
Cllr Bill Randall, Green Party, Hanover & Elm Grove.

Cabinet Members:-
Cllr Amy Kennedy, Green Party, Preston Park. Deputy Leader (Executive). Planning, Employment, Economy & Regeneration.
Cllr Ian Davey, Green Party, St.Peters & North Laine. Deputy Leader (Non-Executive). Transport & Public Realm.
Cllr Jason Kitcat, Green Party, Regency. Finance and Central Services.
Cllr Liz Wakefield, Green Party, Hanover & Elm Grove. Housing.
Cllr Pete West, Green Party, St.Peters & North Laine. Environment and Sustainability.
Cllr Rob Jarrett, Green Party, Goldsmid. Adult Social Care and Health.
Cllr Sue Shanks, Green Party, Withdean. Children and Young People.
Cllr Geoffrey Bowden, Green Party, Queen's Park. Culture, Recreation and Tourism.
Cllr Ben Duncan, Green Party, Queen's Park. Communities and Community Safety.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Brighton & the Keep

Construction work on the Keep is expected to start this summer, with completion scheduled for 2013, and one of the Green Council's first actions has been to start eviction proceeding against the travellers illegally occupying the Woollards Field site (owned by Brighton & Hove). Notwithstanding that they have had free use of a pleasant field for several years the travellers are now refusing to move on, so putting Council tax payers to completely unnecessary expense: and then travellers wonder why they get a bad press.

The Keep has been specially designed to provide a safe home in controlled environments for all the archives and historical resources of Brighton & Hove and East Sussex and the special collections of the University of Sussex. It will house all of the current ESRO collections (including those now at outstores), the Special Collections from the University of Sussex including the Mass Observation Archive, Brighton and Hove local history collections (details see below) and the HQ and holdings of the Sussex Family History Group.

Material from Brighton & Hove that is going to The Keep includes bound newspapers, periodicals and pamphlets; rare material from the reading room; maps, plans and microfiche of parish registers (unless these duplicate the ESRO holdings); 2D ephemera and photographic collections currently in the museum store; topographical prints from fine art collection currently in the museum store (generally not accessible with any ease and currently not kept in the right conditions); all oral history recordings and related material and equipment.

If the Brighton History Centre continues in operation,  reference books and microfiches of newspapers, periodicals. and pamphlets, will stay in the Centre in Brighton Museum.    

The Keep will be well served by public transport from Brighton. With the completion of the nearby A270 flyover, opportunity has been taken to create safe crossing points from a bus stop at the junction of the A270/Stanmer Park slip road from which the Keep is approximately 400 metres distant. Falmer Station is about 15 minutes walk from the Keep site.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Stanmer House Stables

These fine cobblestone and brick stables have been in a poor condition for some time but a planning application, BH2011/01219, has now been filed to convert them to 7 two-bedroom houses and one two-bedroom apartment. The latter will be situated over the archway entrance. The building shown above has a wing at each end projecting backwards so that the whole block is in the form of three sides of a rectangle around a gravel courtyard. The houses will all have front doors facing on to the courtyard. The entrance to the apartment will be inside the archway. Extra dormer windows matching the existing will be added on all sides.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Seafront Chalets

Ten years or so ago this part of the lower promenade would have presented a vibrant scene in summer, and throughout the year on sunny weekends. Situated opposite the childrens' paddling pool (now filled in) and the Brighton Sailing Club beach, yet removed from the crowded West Street area, these chalets were keenly sought after and none remained vacant for long. Each was fitted with a small canopy and between each chalet was a gap in the paving with an euonymous plant  adding a touch of greenery to the scene. Some occupiers even managed to get a few flowers to bloom.

No doubt they had been neglected by the Council and needed substantial overhaul. They also needed substantial overhaul in the poverty-stricken days following WW2, but the money was found somehow. However, in the first decade of the 21st century, money was apparently so tight that the Council was forced to board them up in the Micawberish hope that something would "turn-up". In this case the hope hung on cash trickle-down from the i360 project which after 5 long years of waiting has still not materialised,  indeed seems to be rapidly fading into the distance. In the meantime the Council has been losing thousands of £'s every year in rent (which would surely by now have paid for  renovation) and looks set to continue to lose it indefinitely while denying residents the use of chalets that are in high demand. 

Is this really a good way to run the City?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Wheel row rumbles on . . .

View of the Wheel from the west
. .  . this time with a letter in the Argus from the Secretary of the Kingscliffe Society. Like a last rumble from a departing thunderstorm he writes (in italics) that:-

"the project will have wide-ranging implications on the appearance of the East Cliff conservation area, strategic views of the coastline and, crucially, the local residential neighbourhood."

What are these "strategic views"? The wheel will obscure a tiny portion of Kingscliffe when viewed from the Palace Pier and, as a counterpoint to the period architecture, it will surely enhance and enliven the scene. Viewed from the east or west along the coast it will be seen edge-on and hardly noticeable.

"Temporary or permanent, the wheel will likely appear to bear down and intrude on the local area . .  and the decision to allow the project. . . undervalues the impact the scheme will have on plans to regenerate the Terraces." 

It depend on what is meant by "local area" and being that the Wheel is of openwork construction and a football pitch away from the nearest residential properties, its potential to offend by "bearing down" seems rather limited. It is likely to attract substantial numbers to the east of the Pier and almost certainly increase trade in the nearby holiday shops and restaurants, most of whom are in favour of the project.

"Inadequate consideration has been given to the impact the scheme will have."

The application was received by the Planning Department on 16th March and was approved on 27th April. In the interim there was apparently time for the Wheel to be supported by the Conservation Advisory Group and for 64 letters of approval to have been submitted as against 49 of objection. It is difficult to imagine what "adequate consideration" would have consisted of that would have persuaded the Planning Committee to reject the application.

This whole episode reminds one forcibly of the opposition to the London Eye, lead by Norman St.John-Stevas, who feared for the views from or to (I can't remember which) the Houses of Parliament. Since then the Eye has become a hugely popular and admired feature of the London skyline and I venture to guess that any suggestion now for its removal would be met with howls of protest and an instant vociferous campaign of opposition.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Hove Coast Guard Station - then & now (not)

A view looking east from the Esplanade at the end of lower Hove Street c.1900.  The coastguards lived in a row of cottages on the opposite side of Kingsway. The station was also used by the RNVR for training purposes. The single-storey timber-clad building on the corner later housed a battery of 4 twelve-pounder guns which permanently protruded from the front of the building. It is not clear if any guns were installed at the time of this picture. The two storey building further on was known as the Battery House. The RNVR left the site in 1968 which was bought by the Council and cleared. The Battery House was demolished in 1969.

Today everything  has changed except for the seafront railings and the distant roofline of the houses on the opposite side of Kingsway.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

'Ghost' train chugging closer . . .

The locomotive public artwork planned for the Greenway Bridge over New England Road is intended to be lit from below by slowly changing LED lighting so that sometimes it appears to passers-by below and sometimes it doesn't, thus enhancing its ghostly nature. As originally planned the lighting was intended to be embedded in the structure of the Grade II listed bridge which, I imagine, caused the planning department some reservations. Revised drawings have now been submitted showing the lighting attached to the locomotive structure itself, see BH2011/01227.

Original planning application: BH2008/03424.

Withdean Stadium moves on . . .

 At the deserted Withdean Stadium, the City Council has made a planning application BH2011/00973 to remove the North East, East, South East, and South stands, and seems to have anticipated giving itself permission, as most of these have already disappeared. Three office buildings and 11 toilet blocks are also to be removed. The Council is also seeking to retain the unobtrusive west stand seen above. 

However the original planning permission for the Grandstand canopy, see below, was evidently permanent and it seems the superstructure will remain. This is unfortunate as it is unsightly and obscures the more pleasing facade of the 1930's Withdean Sportsman and terrace.

The Stadium opened in 1936 as the finest tennis centre outside Wimbledon and hosted the 1939 Davis Cup Match. It has since morphed through numerous changes including a mortuary (during the war), a zoo, athletics arena, circus pitch, cricket pitch, horse show arena, and, since 1998 until their departure this year, the Albion's home. 

The whole site is nowadays referred to as the Withdean Sports Complex and  has 3 indoor and 3 outdoors tennis courts, 8 squash courts, exercise studio, health suite, five a side football / netball pitch, crèche and a 50 station fitness gym. The venue is also the home of the highly successful Withdean Tennis Academy which has obtained both LTA satellite & tennis clubmark accreditations. For the future  local campaigners are looking for updated tennis courts and a skateboard ramp for younger residents.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Boom in visitors at Brighton's Royal Pavilion

Visitor numbers at Brighton's historic Royal Pavilion were up by more than 30,000 to 313,360 last year  the highest numbers for a decade. This is attributed to the combined effects of new exhibitions, more people holidaying at home, the winter ice-rink and increased publicity from the use of Twitter & Facebook.

Combined attendances at Preston Manor, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Hove Museum & Art Gallery, and the Booth Museum of Natural History were up from a total of 594,881 in 2009-10 to 621,969.

Visits by UK residents were up by 30,000 as more people chose a 'staycation', because of concerns about the recession, exchange rates and airport disurption.  More Brighton & Hove residents also took the opportunity to visit the royal palace on their doorstep, with visits up by 8% to 11,800.

Other visitors were drawn from across the world, with a the highest proportion from Germany and France followed by, Italy, USA and Canada. The Royal Pavilion's popularity with German and French visitors follows a high profile Brighton & Hove marketing campaign in northern Europe by VisitBrighton, the council's tourism service.

Hove Museum & Art Gallery also saw a big increase in visitors, up from from 40,056 to 44,542, thanks in part to the success of family activities and events at the museum.

From a City Council press release.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Preston Barracks plans on show at Hove Town Hall

"An exhibition showing possible options for one of the most important development sites in Brighton & Hove is being held from Monday May 9 to Wednesday May 11 from 9am to 5pm at Hove Town Hall."
From a City Council press release. Read more.

See also: The Preston Barracks site.

Notes on a corbel

"corbel, n a projection from the face of a wall, supporting a weight." (Chambers Dictionary.)

The name of this type of architectural feature escaped me until quite recently, when I chanced on "corbel" in a popular book on architecture. Once one has a word in mind it is easy to look it up and confirm that the definition fits. Retrieving a word to look up in the first place is much more difficult. 

The corbel here must have looked somewhat quirky even when new. With its fine decorative detailing it seems out of keeping with the red brick-work of its surroundings, certainly with modern commercial signage. Along the whole seafront it is the sole representative of its type and it is difficult to envisage what impulse drove the architect to include it. Maybe it was simply an item surplus to requirements on a  different project and its presence is due to the builder's whim.

Considering the 120 years that it has survived in this exposed situation, it is in excellent condition; which is more that can be said for the paving above.

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, it is presumably the extraordinary roofline that is intended to establish 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. 

Friday, 6 May 2011

Hove Station - then & now

The Italianate-styled nearer building dates from 1865 when the station was called Cliftonville after the area that was being developed south of the coastal railway line and west of Brunswick Town. There was already a station called "Hove" on the Brighton-Shoreham line at Holland Road. In 1879 the "Cliftonville spur" was built which connected the coastal line with the main London-Brighton line without the need to go into Brighton Station. In 1893 the further red-brick building was erected and the name of the station changed to Hove.

2011. Very little has changed over the succeeding 100 or so years, except the local transport. The nearer building has lost its canopy and is no longer in station use. The distant building is still the ticket office. Hove Railway Station including the footbridge, is Grade II listed. 

The Forty Part Motet

Currently in the Fabrica, Duke St. you can experience Thomas Tallis's polyphonal masterpiece,"Spem in Alium", as you never have before. Each of the forty voices is assigned to a separate speaker arranged in a oval. You can sit at the focus of a universe of sound or wander about and listen to each voice at random. What this year's installation lacks in visual stimulus it more than makes up for in originality and aural impact. Although a relatively simple idea its implementation must have required considerable technical expertise.

"Spem in Alium" is also being sung live by the Purcell Singers. 10pm, 15th May at St. Bartholomew's Church.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The RSC Hospital redevelopment

Notwithstanding the country's current economic difficulties the redevelopment project for the Eastern Road site seems to be chugging on. After numerous liaison meetings with local residents and city-wide amenity groups the Brighton and Sussex Universities Hospital Trust have produced 'final' drawings of their £400M proposals.

All the buildings along the north side of Eastern Road are to be demolished. The Charles Barry building and chapel behind will be replaced with  a block of the same height while to the east three tall narrow blocks of wards fan out slightly towards Eastern Road to ensure each ward has something of a sea-view. The Kemp tower behind will remain the tallest building on the site and will be provided with a helicopter pad supported on four lattice-work columns one at each corner of the tower.

The view of the Barry facade up Paston Place will be replaced with one of a balconied bay structure which seems to harmonise fairly well with the local architecture, and the entrance of the hospital is removed to the east as shown below.

Construction work is expected to take 10 years and  disruption in the neighbourhood  cannot help but be considerable. The hospital will continue in operation the while, which is going to need some difficult juggling with ward space. A planning application is expected to be submitted within the next couple of months.

South elevation
For further drawings click on the pdf link here.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011


The remains of the evergreen oak felled 4 weeks ago next to the Pavilion North Gate. It doesn't look as if it was in danger of toppling, perhaps the fungal infection was just affecting some of its upper parts or it was felled to minimise spread of the fungus to other trees. One tends to hope the latter reason applies. The risk of being injured by a falling tree branch must be akin to being struck by lightning and vanishingly small compared with those we take every day of our lives merely by getting out of bed.  It is depressing to think that this fine tree might have become a premature victim of our modern risk-avoidance culture.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

East Street - then & now

Then - c.1930. Most of central Brighton remained treeless until well into the 20th century and this was apparently welcomed by some visitors. (See "Trees in Brighton - an earlier opinion") The Old Steine was planted in the 1830's, but later, along Lewes Road, mature trees were removed to make way for overhead tram lines.  As Brighton continued to expand outwards new residential roads were often tree-lined, but the Old Town, Western Road, London Road, remained devoid of trees until the 1960's when the big surge in planting began. 

Now - April 2011. The property in the corner has been given a 'Georgian' makeover,  and the rather obtrusive red-brick wall of the Regency Arcade development rises in the background, but otherwise little is changed. This part of East Street is now pedestrianised which, with the mature trees, makes it an attractive spot to linger and, as can be seen, there is no shortage of seating.