First Base Day Centre Refurbishment Completion

During my one and only previous visit to Brighton Housing Trust’s First Base Day Centre, there was ivy coming in through the windows.

That was back in April 2009 when a sensitive renovation project was only just getting underway. After attending the recent launch event as a guest of the local RIBA, I was under no doubt whatsoever that some pretty hard graft has taken place.

The First Base Day Centre is situated within St Stephen’s Church, a building that actually began as the ballroom of the Castle Inn at the foot of North Street. It was first built by John Crunden in 1766 and then became King George IV’s private chapel in 1822. It closed as a church in 1939.

The building came to be was sold to the people of Brighton, along with the rest of the Pavilion Estate, by Queen Victoria in 1850 but it was actually taken apart and rebuilt in its present position on Montpelier Place in 1852 to escape demolition when North Street was due to be widened. It was Grade II* listed in 1952.

I recall my first visit to First Base well. The centre area of the main hall felt overwhelmingly spacious and under-utilised yet the ends felt cramped by the presence of several portacabin-like additions. Lots of the original features, such as the cornicing, were in urgent need of repair, and the walls had been stained, not painted, Nicotine Yellow.

The grand main entrance of the building has been brought back into use so I was able enter the proper way this time. Chloe Hobden at Camillin Denny Architects has gone to great lengths to design two attractive new structures – one for each end of the hall – and it is possible to walk around them and admire features on the walls that were previously obscured.

Chloe, along with Andy Winter and his team at Brighton Housing Trust, should be incredibly proud of the end result and everything seems to have been thoroughly thought through. Regency Pea Green was actually proposed for the interior as an alternative to Nicotine Yellow but Chloe explained that this was wisely deemed “too institutional” by the centre manager.

Celestial Blue was picked in the end and it works well. I would perhaps have gone for Ivy Green had it not been such a stark reminder of how the building was so different just two years ago.