Archive for May, 2014

Where We Live in Hove

In the spirit of the Brighton Festival, DK Architects have released the second poster in a series of photomontages of architectural features – called Where we live in Hove – to really get people thinking about what makes their area great.

DK Architects are situated on Hove Park Villas in a former wine merchant’s premises just above Hove Station, which also is the home of the firm’s founder, David Kemp. Readers might recall David’s work in proposing a new footbridge for the station. He clearly loves the area in which he both lives and works.

The posters, currently on display in DK’s window, feature a selection of photographs of what David sees as the best bits of his area – the bits that pedestrians with a keen eye might smile about to themselves as they walk by, or point out to their friends from other parts of the city.

The area above Hove Station and below the Old Shoreham Road has no particular name but could loosely be described as the Wilbury district. The streets are generous in width and the houses are Victorian and Edwardian. This was a golden age for building in Hove. Builders were still providing the details that we love, and construction quality was at its peak.

The Wilbury district is defined by all manner of things to different people. For those interested in architecture, there are geometric tiles galore. There is no Regency render but, instead, solid red and white brick. Gateposts and porches are adorned with terracotta. Whether it be Wilbury Gardens (one of the best roads in Hove) or Ranelagh Villas, not one of the roads is bad.

I tend to rattle off the same short list of decent modern buildings locally when called upon and each has the modern equivalent of the features that David has identified. In Brighton, the Jubilee Library’s oily-black mathematical tiles certainly cannot be bought off the shelf in Wickes, nor can the delightful copper roof of Medina Studio on the Hove seafront. What is sad is that few modern developments present us with the same opportunities for joy as we walk around.

A fundamentally sound design, along with bespoke ingredients, really do make these buildings – but the point is really that some of their best bits can be seen by anybody that walks past, just as David’s posters can be too which will be for sale over the coming weeks.

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Velo Cafe

Two members of the team behind local success story Small Batch Coffee have teamed up for an exciting café venture on the newly-renovated Level in Brighton.

Planning was sought in August 2011 by Brighton & Hove City Council for a building housing a café, public toilet and gardeners’ mess to replace a much smaller gardeners’ hut that was on the site already. The derelict hut had previously been home to property auctioneers Clive Emson.

The attractive glass, timber and steel structure is situated just south of the fabulous new skatepark. The exterior of the building was designed by Sasha Bhavan of London-based architectural practice Knox Bhavan. The roof features eight photo-voltaic panels and two solar thermal. The rest is grass. In fact, the rest is a combination of 29 different wildflower and grass varieties (32% crested dogstail all the way down to 0.1% harebell) according to the planning application.

The Level was laid out in 1822 by Amon Henry Wilds (architect of Park Crescent and Hanover Crescent) and Henry Phillips (the renowned landscape gardener). Cricket is often mentioned in its history and was played there from the mid-1800s. Sport – cycling to be precise – is a prominent theme at the new café, Velo, which is the brainchild of Nigel Lambe from Small Batch.

Much of the interior of the building, including lots of the furniture, was designed by Paul Nicholson, who has been mentioned many times in this column, from Brighton-based Chalk Architecture. Paul is also responsible for the interiors and styling generally of the various Small Batch outlets throughout the city.

Many other local firms have been involved in the fit-out. Lucien Hewetson at Didfafab made the tables, and Nik the Brush painted them along with much of the signage. Lighting was sourced by the Brighton Design Workshop. The prominent hanging lights were salvaged from an Indian Air Force hangar. The bulkhead lights came from a passenger ship. Velo provides a lovely environment in which to eat and sip coffee, and it caters for around 60, but, as the name suggests, it is more than just a café. Bike servicing takes place on the premises too.

Paul is a perfectionist and insists that more work is to take place including the design of a new logo which I was hoping to print here. But just as rideouts from Velo leave sharply on Sundays at 8:30am, I have a deadline too.

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Velo by Chalk. Architecture and Interior Photography by Jim Stephenson


Palmeira Court

One of the finest flats in Hove spanning three houses in Palmeira Square is opening for the annual Artists Open Houses event in May.

Palmeira Square was built on the Wick Estate, an ancient landholding whose boundaries included the coast road, the Brighton/Hove border, Dyke Road and the Stanford Estate. Its first documented mention was in 1267 at which point it was mortgaged to ‘Samuel, son of Isaac the Jew of Norwich’. Isaac Lyon Goldsmid (the first Jewish baronet) bought the estate in 1830 after a portion had been sold off to form Brunswick Town.

Palmeira Square was developed in an Italianate style from 1852-65. It is interesting that the Wick Estate still owned 26 of the houses in 1945, bearing in mind that it was essentially a development company. Today, 20 of the 72 houses on Palmeira Square and adjoining Adelaide Crescent are owned by Associated Property, a Merseyside-based company, seemingly purchased from the shrinking Wick Estate during the 1950s. Blocks in their impressive portfolio include Palmeira Court, Adelaide Court, Churston Court and White Court. They are all maintained impeccably well and new tenants are found by recommendation.

Palmeira Court consists of three distinct blocks of large flats in Palmeira Square, each of which is formed from several houses. ‘Block A’ Palmeira Court spans five entire houses – 30-34 Palmeira Square. Hove Council granted the Wick Estate planning permission for the conversion in 1904 and the work was carried out the following year. Essentially, a lift (overlooked by the family crests of Lord Byron) was added to the central house and the staircases of the four others were removed. Ten lateral flats were created. A connected service block was built behind, principally accessed from St John’s Road. Many servants were still required, but far fewer per residence than if the buildings remained as houses.

The home of photographer Ted Davis and Richard Hawkes is surely the best of the bunch. It is at first floor level (which means sea views, high ceilings, balconies and accessibility sans lift). Incredibly, it spans three of the original houses. There is no other flat in Brighton & Hove like it.

Ted and Richard will be opening throughout May as Studio323 Photography for Artists Open Houses. We all obviously visit exhibiting artists for their enticing artwork, and not their exquisite addresses. This needn’t be the exception as Ted’s photographs are out of this world too.

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24 Wakefield Road

The 116-step so-called ‘Cats Creep’ takes pedestrians all the way up from the already high Roundhill Crescent in central Brighton to Wakefield Road from where the views are dizzying.

At a glance, 24 Wakefield Road looks just like its neighbours. Down the street, No. 13 is a little odd as an inconspicuous tunnel beneath it leads to No.14, a hidden house behind. No. 24 though looks just like the rest of the terrace, save for the orientation of its chimney stack.

I was shown around by the house’s owner, Dr Sadegh Moghadas, a former film editor and university lecturer who bought the building in 1980. The house has three storeys along with a generous loft room. It isn’t rectangular though, like a typical terraced house. The rear is actually wider than the front, which explains why the chimney doesn’t run perpendicular to the façade.

Round Hill – the area that is bounded by Ditchling Road, Lewes Road and the railway – is blessed with impressive views across the valley below. A walk up Wakefield Road gives little clue to this as, well, the houses are in the way. This makes the surprise view from the rear windows of each house all the more overwhelming. From No. 24, the sea, Pavilion, Dome, Brighton Wheel, Pepperpot, Racecourse and Downs may all be seen. It may well be the best outlook in the city.

A rear patio that is accessed from the basement kitchen is about the same size as the other rear gardens on the terrace. Some steps lead away from it though, down the hill. Where they go is not immediately clear as trees quickly obscure what’s beyond. It’s soon clear that the rear patio is a gateway to a private wooded area within the centre of the bock, the size of half a football pitch, that comes with the house. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Various sources suggest that the land was once an orchard. The building’s deeds offer a variety of clues on the house’s history. A prominent local landowner, John George Blaker (the namesake of nearby Blaker Park) appears to have been the owner in 1909. The name of the house, ‘Hillside’, which has been exposed from under layers of paint on the front of the building, is mentioned at this point. Documents from 1917 mention the Cats Creep.

The house is currently for sale with Bonett’s Estate Agents.

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