Haworth Tompkins chosen to replace Gehry on Brighton seafront redevelopment


London firm Haworth Tompkins has been appointed to lead a major seafront redevelopment in Brighton and Hove, England – eight years after a controversial scheme by California architect Frank Gehry was scrapped.

The Stirling Prize-winning firm will work with sports architecture studio LA Architects on the regeneration of the former King Alfred sports centre, two miles east of Brighton's Palace Pier.

The project will include a new leisure complex, a community art centre, shops, offices, housing and a public square that connects the site with the seafront.

Brighton seafront development by Haworth Tompkins

Frank Gehry was originally appointed to the job after winning a design contest in 2003. His design, said to be inspired by Edwardian dresses, featured a pair of towers with crumpled metal walls – leading it to be nicknamed Tin Can Alley.

But the design proved highly contentious with locals and was eventually dropped in 2008, reportedly due to funding issues.

Brighton seafront development by Haworth Tompkins

Haworth Tompkins' replacement scheme was selected by Brighton and Hove Council earlier this month.

According to the firm, it has spent three years on the design, working with property developer Crest Nicholson and Hove-based charity The Starr Trust.

Brighton seafront development by Haworth Tompkins

Like Gehry's proposal, which featured two 20-storey towers, the development will include several high-rise elements. It will incorporate 560 new homes, organised above a basement car park.

"Three years ago, at a public meeting at the King Alfred Centre, [we] stood on the stage and promised that we would do our best to deliver a new development worthy of this extraordinary site," said Haworth Tompkins co-director Steve Tompkins.

Brighton seafront development by Haworth Tompkins

"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."

LA Architects will create the new leisure centre, replacing the facilities of the site's soon-to-be-demolished 1930s building.

"From all aspects this is a truly exciting opportunity for the people of Brighton and Hove to look forward to an outstanding leisure complex of which we can all be proud," said LA Architects director Mike Lawless.

Brighton seafront development by Haworth Tompkins
Frank Gehry's original proposal, which was nicknamed Tin Can Alley

The development was due to be Gehry's first major project in the UK. After it was scrapped, Brighton-born architect Piers Gough – who also was involved – told The Independent it was "a heartbreak, and a loss for Britain".

Haworth Tompkins won the Stirling Prize, the UK's most important architecture award, in 2014 for its Everyman Theatre in Liverpool. The firm has also refurbished Denys Lasdun's National Theatre and is working on the housing that will replace Robin Hood Gardens.

  • Doubtful Dodger

    It’s the changing of the guard.

  • Archi-Nerd

    Tin Can Alley is a hilarious name. I like how Gehry tries to play his design off as site specific in describing the form as based on Edwardian dresses, and yet it looks like so many of his other designs. Stock Gehry. Good one man! Good one, lol.

    • JRT

      Talking about ‘stock buildings’, this new design is hardly site specific.

      A splashing of gold here and there isn’t enough to make this building live up to is extraordinary location. Looks like any typical estate regeneration scheme you might find in London.

      • Archi-Nerd

        This design does indeed feel like it might be a “reaction to” the craziness of the Gehry scheme, rather than thoughtful site-responsive redo.

  • Peter Passaro

    Correction for the editor: the King Alfred Centre (Hove) is not located in West Sussex. Hove was formerly in East Sussex County, but as of 2001 is part of the city of Brighton and Hove. It would be correct to either identify it by the city or generically as in Sussex.

    Also, the new plan is still highly controversial here due to the council’s decision to hold no public consultation prior to announcing the winner of the competition. It will probably survive though as the locals are desperate to see something done with the site.

  • Cdg

    So boring. Not that I was a fan of Gehry’s proposal, but such a prime location and all we get is very generic building.