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Cabbage awards

13 Regency Society members prepared 1 minute presentations on their proposed 'Cabbage award' for the worst 20th century building in Brighton and Hove to follow the presentation on the RIBA Sussex map of the best 20th century buildings in Brighton and Hove on 21 February 2018. The audience voted to choose their least favourite building.

The presentations proved very popular so we are showing them again here. (All photographs were taken by RS members or derived from google maps)


I would like to see everything within the marina sea wall demolished. Wouldn’t it be grand if we could have a fresh start that is attentive to how the marina connects to the city that hosts it? I suggest that all entrances from whatever direction by whatever means are mean and an embarrassment. My photos look at one way in. I walk along the loveliest part of our seafront, eastward from the pier. On my left are the beautiful Madeira Arches. On my right only sky, sea and the undulating contours of the shingle beach - until I reach the marina entrance. A dark and dingy designated walkway, dominated by all things to do with cars. At least it runs east where I want to go - to the one place I might find respite - the boardwalk on a sunny day, hopefully for a good coffee and the tingling sound of ropes on masts of the boats. But the way ends abruptly. I cannot go forward. I am offered a choice of the Asda carpark to my left or descending into the bowels of the multi-story car park to my right. My journey continues thus - but my time is up. My message is this – there is no sense to this place.
Office building in New Road: Very little is worse than boring. This building is REALLY boring. Picture New Road: flamboyant Theatre Royal, elegant Unitarian Church, lively independent shops and cafes, imaginative paving and seating, musicians, street theatre, whistling bird man, drunks and campaigners, glimpses of the most blissed-out building ever - the Royal Pavilion. In amid all the life and colour sits this dour, unimaginative building, glowering like a disapproving relative at a party - who only comes to life when the vol-au-vents appear. It contributes nothing to the life around it. It is offensive in its boringness and needs to go - or (and here’s an idea) be painted gold.
In a supreme position, here is a vision in sombre grey and industrial green – born of the ingenious concept of an elevation composed of rough scaffold and leaky glazing. The pavement is squeezed into a margin where the view of the Royal Pavilion is disturbed by the lurking spectacle of a lacklustre subterranean car park glowering up through a sinister grille. The top storey is chopped back, skewing the outline. And the north elevation is a grim and featureless blockage of the face and outlook of the former Parochial Offices. A modest plot and its benign potential were forced into delivering this fiend. And they call it the Glass Pavilion. The bare-faced effrontery of this only adds insult to the injuries inflicted by this misconceived apparition.
Whatever else you think of this disfiguring lump, as Gavin Stamp called it, it directly added to the urban decay and inertia that afflicts the city. In 1955 a Rank Organisation spokesman described the Frank Matcham-designed Palladium cinema, the former Alhambra Opera House, as ‘an out-of-date place of entertainment in an unattractive and exposed position on the seafront’. It closed six months later, remained empty for eight years and the site was derelict for another 15 years until the Brighton Centre was built. In 1965 Rank opened the Top Rank Suite, designed by Russell Diplock & Associates . . . in an exposed position on the seafront . . . hence the blank façade, and closed the SS Brighton. Derelict for 24 years. When this place became the Kingswest cinema in 1973, Rank closed three other cinemas including the Odeon West Street. Derelict for 17 years. Even more reason to think that Kingswest should disappear.
No, I’m not proposing the demolition of the i360. Love it or hate, the i360 site has a coherent design. The restored West Pier kiosks on either side and the column in the centre create a striking symmetry. But what’s that thing by the right-hand kiosk? It’s a roof on four legs. It looks temporary, but sadly it is not: it even has planning permission. Its purpose is to keep the sun or rain off people during a security check before they enter the pod. Clearly security is important but it seems no one thought about it during the design. So, we now have this alien structure disfiguring the site. It should be removed. Do the security inside the kiosk. If that’s not possible, move the four-legged roof round the back of the kiosk to reduce its visual impact. Sadly architect, David Marks is no longer with us. Let’s respect his memory by restoring the integrity of his original design.
The last minute reprieve for the Mazda Fountain was a huge mistake - just because something has clung, by sheer fluke, to existence for a long time it doesn’t make it valuable. The council once described the Mazda Fountain as a ‘historical accident’. It is. It was an exhibition structure shipped here in 1930. It was not designed for this site. It wasn’t even designed as a park fountain. It was designed specifically for an ornamental lake. It was meant to be heard and not seen. The unsightly boiler-plate cylinder was intended to be submerged. The only thing you should have seen were plumes of water projected from the centre of a lake - nowhere near any onlookers. And here’s the thing, as anyone who has been unfortunate enough to walk past it when its on will know - it blasts turbo-jets of water into the air, like a vast broken water main, soaking passersby. Not only this but it’s so costly that it’s hardly ever on so most of the time it looks like this - a rusty industrial drum surrounded by litter floating in a puddle of green slime. Ignore the ill-considered campaign to save this monstrous cuckoo - lets melt it down and make something better.
Wellend Villas, is an example, but not the only one, of the sort of new "housing" prevalent in Brighton in recent years. Up the London Road on the old "Endeavour" site, it masks the listed railway viaduct from incoming traffic. it is a cheaply built, charmless bland block hung with galvanised metal balconies which have forced the residents to resort to a variety of ways to achieve privacy. Inside they're mostly narrow, deep plans, with 2.5m wide living rooms and tortuous access corridors. Ok the flats won't kill you, and they are somewhere to dump your stuff, but such a disappointingly long way from "lifetime homes". Unfortunately this block was approved by Brighton Council with no objections. A previous, much more interesting proposal by Piers Gough (our next Antony Dale lecturer), was rejected by the Council, having been ridiculed and objected to by members of the "conservation lobby".
My beef here is with bad planners and ever greedy developers. The central issue is with Brighton’s lack of civic pride. Here we are at the heart of Brighton’s Central Park: just imagine what a European city would do with an asset like Valley Gardens! Filled with people! The great inappropriate lump of space this building occupies was decreed by planners. But look carefully: - first, but for protesters (led, I gather by Selma Montford) it would have been a bigger lump, as was the nasty, 20thC telegraph house which it replaces. - second, it is really quite a careful and refined, if bland piece of building by a sensitive architect. But the key civic crime is the city’s dumb blindness: permitting the killing of public space at ground level with a building dumb and blind. So no one enjoys strolling past it, no one dawdles: in fact it denies the generosity of the park it faces. We have the repelling pavement level of black glass, prison walls, killing the space around. I’d not demolish. I’d (1) sack planners who think like this. and (2) demand the ground floor be entirely permeable, and open up to varied public uses, as befits its context in our city’s pedestrian heart: little shops, social spaces, workshops, cafés, the front three metres an arcade to shelter from the rain… anything just a little humane and inviting!
The UPAS tree is a very feared tree. It not only kills everything beneath it but it spreads its poison far and wide. They make strychnine from its seeds. The area around UPAS trees is always dead. No life can survive. We have an UPAS tree in Brighton and Hove. We call it Bartholomew Square. Our enemies have planted it very carefully to cut off a main artery into what was, in the 18th, 19th and a large part of the 20th century, the beating heart of our city, on Market Street, where there was not only our Town Hall but also our Market and once our poorhouse. It connected our heart directly to our lungs, our raison d’être, the sea. The area around our UPAS tree is already dead. I’ve marked it in blue. Very few go near it - sensing the deadness all around. It’s seeds, blown by the winds of municipal ignorance, are taking root all over the city. Kill it now.
A Cautionary Tale: Once upon a time, in Hove, there was a disused Gas Works with nearby a parish Church, a Victorian School, a Carnegie Library and a pleasant pedestrian street. All the ingredients needed to make Urban Magic But along came greedy Tesco and built an ugly out-of-town shopping shed, plonked in an ocean of parked cars. An opportunity missed…….the store could have faced George Street, the cars could have gone underground, there could have been a south facing piazza linking the school, the church and the library. Instead a total disaster – socially, aesthetically, spatially. But let this be a warning: we should never give developers a free rein. Standard Life will wreak the same havoc on Churchill Square and ultimately, on Black Rock, if we don’t do something.
Flag Court is a nine-storey block of flats which was built in 1959. It lies beyond the 30s block of Courtenay Gate at the west end of Hove Lawns, with cream stucco Courtenay Terrace to its right. The photographs say it all: • Flag Court is too orange! Its bright brick and cream-clad exterior relate in no way to other structures around it. • Its height and bulk loom over the surrounding buildings. • The orientation of the Vee-shaped building on its plot, with the point of the Vee facing seawards is out of line with its neighbours. • The result is that we have a group of three entirely disparate and unrelated buildings in this short section of Kingsway. • Finally, it is a towering and incongruous brick full stop at the sea end of Albany Villas with its 19th century white stucco houses. For all these reasons I suggest we wrap Flag Court in a Cloak of Invisibility.
Churchill Square is built on land which was once a thriving community of residential streets, pubs, breweries and a school. Until the 1930s the Western Road edge was fronted by some lovely Victorian shops. By 1967 the area had been improved to become the concrete, windswept canyons of the first Churchill Square. Despite it being probably the last open air shopping mall to be built it did have one redeeming feature - there was a link to the seafront via the Brighton Centre. Thirty years later we had version two. The link to the seafront has gone. In fact there is no link to anywhere else once you’re inside. The building is disconnected from the rest of the city. The current Churchill Square is a large shed with a bland glass facade full of boring, standard chain stores unlike the rest of Brighton. It’s too hot inside and it’s dull !
I chose the Gala Bingo Building for a few reasons. 1. It's awful. No architectural merit whatsoever. Horrible brick. Ugly roof. Disgusting blue metalwork. 2. It sites next to Brighton College - a fabulous listed building with all those great additions which are on the map. Buy one! 3. It has the worst public art in the city. A child-like representation of a train coming out of a tunnel. A cruel reminder of when the site contained this, the beautiful Kemptown Station.

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