Underneath (and above) the arches

Gail Taylor
Friday 29 Jul 2016

Second proposal for restoration and regeneration of neglected seafront area in Brighton is revealed

On the UK’s south coast, Wilkinson Eyre has already impressed Brighton and Hove City Council (BHCC) with its proposals to regenerate a once grand but now badly run-down stretch of Brighton’s seafront. However, a second architect, Brighton-based Chalk Architecture, has now stepped into the frame with an alternative proposal.

A little over two years ago a report revealed that the condition of the Grade II listed Madeira Terrace had reached a point where its entire existence was called into doubt, with estimates as high as £100 million for the repair of the seafront arches appearing in the press. 

Wilkinson Eyre suggested a glazed envelope to the underside of the arches, and an application for initial funding has been made by BHCC to the regional development fund on this basis.

However, mindful of the city’s severely stretched resources, Paul Nicholson, Director of Chalk is now suggesting the plans be taken in a bold new direction, asking: “Should such a huge area of public realm that is used by so few of Brighton’s population be repaired at such great expense without wider strategic consideration? 

“Does the current situation therefore give us the opportunity to re-invent this section of the seafront, re-imagine how we might use our precious public space and improve accessibility down to the Kemptown seafront and its expanding cultural and leisure environment?”

The big idea was sketched out on a napkin over a coffee. Now, with the help of a highly experienced consulting team, the official plans have just been revealed. The proposed scheme envisages a ‘people’s promenade’ along what would be the new Kemptown Lawns.

Taking inspiration from Piet Oudolf’s celebrated ‘HighLine’ public realm project in New York, Chalk is proposing ‘a new, large, dynamic, versatile and green open space stretching the length of Marine Parade’. Set on the seaward side of the road, the space is created by taking space of the lower Madeira Terrace and raising it to the level of Marine Parade above. The void created beneath would be filled with a series of new buildings that incorporate the detail and structure of the existing arches. 

Paul explains: “It is a simple concept that has a big outcome. The engineering solution that holds it together is a master-stroke of design by HOP Structural Engineers. We have tested a number of uses for the new building. It will not surprise anyone to know that the use type that generates the greatest return on inward capital investment is luxury residential. 

“Our take on this is that the more value the city can generate from an act of development the more profit it can claw back to pay for an incredible public realm. If there are public funds available then there is less pressure on the overall scheme and other uses can be considered or more space can be secured for the public realm. A hotel in this location could also clearly be amazing. The Madeira Drive level could be any combination of retail, hospitality, workshops and office space.”

Councillor Robert Nemeth of BHCC comments: "We are currently at the stage in the process where ideas from every quarter should be called for, studied and discussed. Now certainly is the time for proper public consultation. Given the amount of work that Brighton-based Chalk has put into their proposals, the Council should listen and engage in the debate with them and all who are interested in the future of our city.”

Chalk Architecture was shortlisted in the World Interiors News Awards 2011 - Retail Interiors category for its designs for the Small Batch Coffee Company.

Gail Taylor


Project Team: 

  • Structural Engineers: Jon Orrell/ HOP Structural Engineers Ltd 
  • Urban Regeneration Consultant: Scott Marshall/ Marshall Regen Ltd 
  • 3D Modeling and Visualisation: Gareth Wellock/ JustViz Ltd 
  • Planning Consultant: Ian Coomber/ Stiles Harold Williams LLP

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