The John Lewis Partnership is coming to Brighton

Eight  trustees of the Regency Society attended a briefing on proposals for a new John Lewis store in Brighton. They were addressed by Andrew Mills, a property manager for John Lewis and David Leech of Haskoll architects who will act as architects for the project (David Leech is graduate of the University of Brighton). You can read more from JLP about their proposals here.
Andrew Mills explained that JLP had already bought the site presently occupied by Boots, and that Boots will remain in situ until their lease runs out in 2017.  JLP are fully committed to the project but will move forward slowly and do not expect a completion before 2020.  (Rumour has it that Boots will take over the empty BHS unit in Churchill Square). AM said that the JLP project would not be in any way affected by the Standard Life proposals to redevelop Churchill Square.
The new JLP store would be one of a new category of in-town store of medium size.  It would not include a supermarket and the existing Waitrose supermarkets in the city  will not be affected.  AM stressed that, while JLP had a consistent commitment to good design, there was no ‘house style’ and each store was designed specifically for its location – this would be a Brighton John Lewis and not a John Lewis in Brighton.  The site was ideal, being located at the meeting point of two important thoroughfares with good public transport connections.
David Leech gave a fairly detailed account of the design strategy.  He stressed that at this stage the proposals should be regarded as no more than a study of massing and siting.  The JLP brief called for a total internal area 145,000 square feet (13,450 square meters).  The building will be pulled back from the North Street boundary to create a wider pavement and improve views of the Clocktower and from the Windsor Street boundary to create a pavement where none exists at present.  The shop entrance will be placed on the corner opposite the Clocktower in order to avoid the need for staircases and ramps and this will determine the groundfloor level.  The corner will be ‘rounded’ in order to create a wider pavement and to soften the building’s impact. The proposed building will  have six full floors above pavement level with one basement floor as well as roof top restaurant (ie seven storeys plus basement).  Floor to floor heights will be compressed in order to reduce the overall height.  The delivery bay will be located at the northeast corner of the site and accessed from Windsor Street. The elevations might be clad in some form of translucent glass in order to improve  weathering and create a reflective facade.
The architect presented a series of explicit perspective sketches from various vantage points which made little attempt to hide the bulk of the building.
The general response to the proposals was positive, though there was some concern that the architecture is bland, overly polite, unadventurous and falls short of what might be appropriate for such an important site.  There was a suggestion that facade should include transparent elements to set up a dialogue between inside and outside and that more should be made of the corner.
JLP intends to collaborate with the Council to effect an improvement of the Clocktower junction.  This might be covered by a Section 106 agreement.

Read our response to the proposals here.

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