Acoustic Shells appear in Littlehampton, UK
Littlehampton on the Sussex coast (UK) was first brought onto the contemporary architecture scene by Heatherwick Studio in 2005 with the creation of the East Beach Café. This public café was formed using ribbons of metal and looks to ‘create a connection with [the] texture and richness of a British beach’. Several years after the opening of the East Beach Café, Studio Weave created The Longest Bench along Littlehampton seafront, providing colourful wooden seating for more than 300 people. This was shortly followed by Asif Khan's West Beach Café in 2008 and, most recently, John Pardey's Riverside Wharf Housing in 2013.
A fifth architectural feature has now been welcomed to the coastal town, courtesy of Flanagan Lawrence. Acoustic Shells comprises a pair of performance venues facing away from one another, one towards the sea and the other towards the town. The former provides an intimate cove for visitors to relax and listen to the sounds of the ocean, whilst the latter is destined to be used for public performances, projecting live music to a formal or informal audience.
Of their design inspiration, Flanagan Lawrence explains: “The concept for the shells is derived from the notion of a traditional bandstand; following the industrial Revolution and worsening conditions in urban areas, bandstands were conceived as a response by local authorities to an increased need for green open spaces where the general public could relax...The Acoustic Shells are a response to this context, bringing back an old ideal, an architecture that can represent ‘sound’, and the people that made it."
The resulting forms were realised using a reinforcement mesh which was sprayed with concrete. Certain areas of the Acoustic Shells measure just 10cm in thickness, relying on the double curved geometry to span the stage. Referencing local sand dunes, the public performance venues add another feather to Littlehampton’s architectural hat.
Councillor Dr James Walsh, Chair of the Steering Group for the project, said: “‘Stage by the Sea’ is a simple but sweeping evocation of a seashell set at the water’s edge, in which music, dance and speech can all project to an intimate audience. The London Olympics had a temporary version of our ‘Stage by the Sea’, but we have the real and perfect thing…another iconic structure on our famous seafront.”
Client: Littlehampton Town Council
Architect: Flanagan Lawrence
Structural Engineer: Expedition Engineering