New England House

Generally thought of an eyesore, New England House receives some pretty bad press. But, as the home of Latest Homes, it at least dishes out a fair amount of good press in return.

There are several monumental structures in the vicinity of New England House which deserve a mention to set the scene. Brighton Station, to the west, opened in 1840 and so began the railway era. The gargantuan London Road Viaduct, to the north, was complete by 1846. It is made up of around 10 million bricks which were amazingly laid in under a year. The enormous St. Bartholomew’s Church, to the south, opened in 1874 to the dimensions of Noah’s Ark and boasts the tallest nave of all parish churches in the country. The area around London Road has been run-down for some time now but there’s no point in making excuses. New England House was never a pretty building – but it could be.

In 1963, New England House opened when much of the area was undergoing massive transformation. Wholes street between London Road and Brighton Station were being swept away for redevelopment. Brighton Goods-Yard closed soon afterwards and remained as a car park until its recent development commenced. Originally, there were 18 firms in residence at New England House. Today, along just a single utilitarian corridor on my tour, I saw several record labels, a ceramicist, five artists and a textile designer! In response to criticism over the building’s appearance, some would say that it’s what’s inside that counts. However, those people aren’t usually architecturally-obsessed like me.

There is no doubt that New England House contains a bewildering amount of creative talent. But, at eight storeys in height, it is prominent. And, it is owned by Brighton & Hove City Council. If Brighton is to be taken seriously, important buildings like this must look the part; especially as the adjacent New England Quarter development is now taking shape. Just by complete coincidence, I came across Alan Phillips Architects on the same corridor as the Latest Homes offices and discovered that ambitious plans have already been drawn up for a complete refurbishment and the addition of a roof garden.

A serious external revamp should take place with a possible increase in height. Internal changes could be left to a minimum though. Costs, and therefore rents, should be kept low. Latest Homes has columnists to pay after all!