Sports specialists LA Architects and former Stirling Prize winners, Haworth Tompkins Architects, are to replace Frank Gehry in designing a leisure center in Hove on Britain’s South Coast. The complex will also feature residential towers up to 18 floors high.
As romantic as “from Bilbao to Brighton” may sound, Gehry’s scheme was not to be. The project had garnered mixed reviews from locals. Supporters hailed it as Britain’s Guggenheim while others described it as “tin can alley.” The audacious twin-tower scheme, designed in conjunction with HOK, would have brought 750 homes to the vicinity (compared to the concurrent 560).
News of the project’s abandonment prompted Brighton-born Piers Gough, Gehry’s friend, to say: “It’s a heartbreak, and a loss for Britain.” Brighton and Hove Council chose to appoint the two new firms after the $422 million scheme, commonly known as, “wonky towers” was ditched 2008 after developer Karis failed to provide funding plans. Previously Dutch Bank ING had pledged to finance the project.
“We are redeveloping the King Alfred site to create a modern new sports centre,” said the council. “The current center no longer meets modern expectations and it is expensive to operate and maintain.” Now the scheme will be seven times cheaper than Gehry’s, costing around $58 million with $11.7 million coming from the council. The council has said those funds will come from the “improved financial performance of the new centre compared to the old centre.”
Haworth Tompkins will masterplan the project while LA Architects will finalize its sport center design. All in all, the scheme is set to include 560 dwellings, 120 of which will be affordable homes. Also included will be:
- An eight lane (Olympic half-size) swimming pool with moveable floor and 352 spectator seats
- Teaching pool with moveable floor and a 4,305 square-foot leisure pool
- Sports hall, the size of eight badminton courts and multi-purpose hall
- 120 station gym, bike spinning room, workout studio, quiet activity studio and a sauna suite
- Gymnastics centre
- 3 rink indoor bowls hall
- Martial arts dojo
- Public square
- Communal art space
- Crèche and soft play room
- 200 space car park for sports centre users.
It’s fair to say that the new design’s towers certainly aren’t wonky. However, that’s not to say that they haven’t come under scrutiny. Already it has been labeled by some as “bland and predictable” and “Croydon-esqeue” with one commenter remarking how the scheme is a dated ’70s throwback.
Haworth Tompkins spoke of their joy in being given the project: “We are delighted to have now been selected by the council to carry out that task, and along with The Starr Trust, Crest Nicholson and LA Architects we are very much looking forward to re-engaging with the Hove community as we prepare to submit a planning application later in the year.”
When finalised, the project will plug the two-mile long gap along Brighton and Hove’s seafront stretching from as far back as Brighton’s Palace Pier.
Planning will be submitted next year.