Following last year’s explorations of Brighton’s Regency heritage in and around the Royal Pavilion, this year Studio 01 shifts its focus to the city’s other main urban focus, that of the Grand Brighton Hotel, the Brighton Centre and Churchill Square.
This area of the city saw major developments during the 1960s and 1970s, with a number of large new buildings climaxing in 1977 with the Brighton Centre. This area of the city is explicitly political, hosting major UK political conferences (this week is Jeremy Corbyn’s first Labour Party conference; the IRA attempted to assassinate Margaret Thatcher at the Grand Hotel during the 1984 Conservative Party conference). It is also political in the sense that it lies in the heart of the city (the polis) and the limitations of the public spaces formed by the development are in many ways typically of their time, a period where architectural and political orthodoxy was being put in question.
Whilst the Brighton Centre remains a major asset for the city as a large scale conference venue, it does not have a sustainable future and cuts Brighton’s seafront away from its city centre. A brutalist concrete façade faces out to the sea and the building sits in direct contrast with historic plans which show a much more permeable street pattern on the site. The council is currently considering plans for the redevelopment of the whole area including building a new conference venue.
Studio 01 will be looking at this whole city block (from Church Street down to the beach, including Churchill Square, the Odeon and the Grand Brighton Hotel), carrying out city analysis through drawing and modelling at different scales. We will be looking at the architecture of “conference” – the way that people meet and engage with each other in cities and spaces – with a view to creating architectural interventions that encourage interaction and dialogue. We will go on to propose designs for a new conference centre or civic building which draws upon these ideas of conference and dialogue at different scales – creating new relationships between the city and sea – inhabitants and visitors – and the public and private realms.