Archive for September, 2010

Western Pavilion Drawing

When my good friend Mike Robins, the well-renowned local tour guide, told me excitedly about his discovery, I knew straight away from the tone of his voice that he was onto something special.

To give some background, Western Terrace is the delightful cul-de-sac off Western Road opposite Waitrose in Brighton. There are not many buildings on the short road but each is noteworthy.

The first is Gothic House which was built by Charles Augustin Busby and Amon Henry Wilds in, as its name suggests, the Georgian Gothic style. Wilds was responsible for the composition of five classical houses on the west side of the road which feature his trademark Ammonite capital – a pun on his first name. The great condition of these five houses may be attributed to local builder John Regan who turned them back into residential dwellings following a spell as Debenhams storerooms. I don’t know who built the coach house but I suspect that it was Wilds also.

Wilds was certainly responsible for the Grade II* Listed Western Pavilion. A plaque bearing the date 1831 bears testament to the fact that he both designed and lived in the unique structure. Wilds was a prolific local architect and his distinctive work included Montpelier, Hanover and Park Crescents. He later lived in Gothic House.

Mike Robins called me to say that he had found in his possession an original pen sketch of the Western Pavilion, dating from the mid-nineteenth century. It features the distinctive residence alongside Gothic House prior to the addition of the Art Deco extensions which flank the entrance to Western Terrace. The artist must have worked from close to the spot now home to the recycling bins on the pavement outside Waitrose.

The Western Pavilion has fascinated many over the years including John Small whom I worked with during his time as the Regency Society’s Honorary Secretary. During the course of his architectural training nearly sixty years ago, John was assigned the task of putting together plans and elevational drawings of an interesting building. No doubt John and the artist responsible for Mike Robins’ drawing both wish they had picked an easier building to draw!

Mike’s drawing is now in the possession of Nick Tyson who runs the Regency Town House in Brunswick Square. Nick hopes to display the drawing in due course whilst Mike still holds out hope for its confirmation as a long-lost Constable.


Dieppe

Perhaps it was the weather. Or a choppy ferry crossing. Whatever the reason, my first trip to Dieppe several years ago left me most uninspired. But a recent long weekend changed my perception completely.

Cliffs, almost orange in colour, loom on the horizon when approaching by sea followed by Dieppe Castle and then individual seafront blocks. Dieppe’s lawns aren’t dissimilar to Hove’s and a number of impressive buildings certainly do exist along the promenade. The overall effect is unfortunately spoilt by a multitude of post-war buildings on sites which really should only exemplify architecture of the highest quality.

The slim, tall and charming buildings surrounding Dieppe’s marina paint an entirely different picture though and this is where my friends and I, having travelled from Brighton Marina by boat (thanks Andy!), spent much of our short break. Almost all of the buildings around the marina are interesting in some way and many are cleverly lit at night. Their charm only increases when viewed as a background to the many different boats which call the marina home. I thought of Hove when I saw the marina’s unashamedly modern street lamps which are a welcome and positive addition to the streetscape.

The town centre, beside the marina and behind the large seafront buildings, contains relatively low buildings – except for the dominant Church of St. Jacques. Whilst the town is far from pristine in terms of both cleanliness and condition of buildings, it is at least the case that quality materials are being used on the various historic structures. In many cases, I found it difficult to tell recent repairs from old additions.

It would be unfair to compare Dieppe with Paris just like Newhaven can’t be compared with London. Dieppe’s strengths and weaknesses should be considered against those of Newhaven, or even Brighton Marina.

Imagine arriving at Brighton Marina by yacht as a foreigner visiting England for the first time. Or Newhaven by ferry. What is there to do and see? What is there in the way of noteworthy architecture (other than the delightful Newhaven Fort of course!)?

Dieppe may not have amazing restaurants or museums and it can be awfully quiet on certain days. But, at a fraction of the size of my beloved Brighton, it’s tiny, so tit’s hardly surprising. As an extremely accessible historic destination, Dieppe is perfect – and it shames both Brighton Marina and Newhaven in so many ways.


16 Hove Park Villas

Camillin Denny seems to be making a habit of winning Sussex Heritage Trust awards. Last year, it was a house on Westbourne Villas; the year before, a residence in Edburton. This year the directors’ own home on Hove Park Villas won the Small Scale Residential Award.

Subtle details instantly suggest that the imposing semi-detached corner residence belongs to an architect. The curved eroco fence and a stainless steel recessed doorbell are instant giveaways. But it belongs to two architects in fact – Mark Camillin and Liam Denny.

Hove Park Villas began as ‘West Brighton Road’ and was developed during the late 1800s. It consists principally of substantial detached and semi-detached houses though a terrace of shops occupies its lower portion just above Hove Station.

A large mirror beside the front door greets visitors upon arrival who are then treated to a waxed floor, the same colour as dark chocolate, which extends from the hall into the study. Proudly displayed on that room’s wall is a drawing from Mark’s diploma project. Above is a fine example of Victorian ‘egg and dart’ coving.

Scattered around the house are all sorts of architecture-related illustrations. A collection of Anthony Harvey pictorial maps detailing some of the world’s most interesting cities framed in black has been strategically placed on the stairway alongside photographs from those same cities. Barcelona, Chicago, Prague, Dublin, Rome, Florence and Berlin are all featured.

There are five bedrooms in total; three on the first floor, two on the second. Each has been decorated in a fairly similar style using lots of dark wood and similar colours. Four matching shades of grey have been used throughout including “Elephant’s Breath” by Farrow & Ball. Dominic Severs at Camillin Denny was responsible for much of the design work (but no doubt the firm’s directors were demanding customers!).

The larger of the two bedrooms on the second floor opens out onto a corner balcony. Whilst the master bedroom, directly below on the first floor, is the most impressive of the bedrooms, it doesn’t enjoy that same privilege. The corner lounge on the ground floor is a fantastic room and has double doors which open out onto a surprisingly private front garden with Indian sandstone slabs and a newly-planted Edinburgh birch.

Slabs from India aside, the house features all sorts of environmental features including both photovoltaic cells and solar hot water panels – all considered, a delightful experience.


Brighton & Hove Open Door 2010

When Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson kindly pointed out that the best things in life are free, I doubt that they had in mind Brighton & Hove Open Door which is due to take place on 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th September.

Events pretty much fall into two categories – those which require advance booking, and those which do not. As a new feature, similar events have been grouped together so that those interested in a particular subject can attend related events as a themed day.

New to the programme this year is ‘Documenting Brighton’s Heritage in 3D’ which, quite frankly, sounds fascinating. The University of Brighton is running this event as a workshop in which attendees are shown how to create three-dimensional digitisations of Brighton.

Last year’s event was the country’s biggest of its kind with 155 different attractions. This year there are 180! That includes a number of new buildings which are opening their doors to the general public for the first time. Furze Croft, a 1930s block on Furze Hill in Hove, is a personal favourite of mine as is the Coptic Church nearby. Each could be described as a hidden gem. Shoreham Power Station on the other hand is most definitely not a hidden anything but a tour is a fascinating proposition nevertheless.

To give some background, Brighton & Hove Open Door is our local offering to the national Heritage Open Days event which, in turn, is the UK’s offering to European Heritage Days. The national scheme is in its 16th year though our local programme is in its 17th as it started out as one of six trial events one year before the rest were set up. Nick Tyson should be mentioned for the huge amount of work that he has put into organising the event over the years.

Alongside the new, all of the regular favourites are included such as ‘Brighton’s Magnificent Sewers’, the Sussex Masonic Centre, the Middle Street Synagogue and the Regency Town House (where Nick and his team are based). Two favourites in the making are the Clayton Tunnel North Portal and ‘Graffiti: An Exploration with Heavy Artillery’ which appeared for the first time last year to great acclaim.

Not only are the Open Door events free, they are remarkably accessible as well. Some events require booking but with many it is simply a case of turning up – see www.rth.org.uk for details.