by Robert Nemeth
Visitors to Brighton & Hove may be forgiven for thinking that we haven’t yet had a chance to tidy up after last month’s Artists Open Houses event.
Modern art around the city has been imaginatively decorated since around the year 2000 by seagulls, rusting balconies, and blocked hoppers. Promoted on Grand Designs and by idealistic planning officers and over-optimistic developers, once plain facades, originally blank canvasses, could easily be mistaken for exhibits in the Tate Modern.
Whether it be the mansions of Tongdean and Withdean, or new homes in little industrial pockets in built-up areas, properties continue to receive the white render treatment. This goes for renovation, conversion and new-builds. In most cases, white render is highly inappropriate. Many a decent house in Tongdean and Withdean has been spoilt in fact by acres of added render that is already showing signs of deterioration. The so-called “Jurys Inn” by Brighton Station is the worst example in the city.
The 1980s and 90s saw a resurgence of brick as the building material of choice. This may well have been in response to the concrete of the 1960s and 70s. Accordingly, the 2000s saw, and the current decade continues to see, white render as the standard finish – a seemingly modern answer to the pastiche of the previous two decades.
In the right environment, white render is bright and clean. The problem is that our often harsh weather is not conducive to such an environment. Whereas brick, stone, glass, slate and zinc require little maintenance, white render requires painting every five years. Not all of us have the time, money or inclination to do this.
The Regency period saw render promoted as a direct response to the cost and availability of stone. However, their product was far superior and the building owners far wealthier.