Dezeen Magazine

La Frégate cafe in Jersey by Will Alsop

Listing bid launched to stop demolition of Will Alsop's upside-down-boat cafe

Architectural charity Twentieth Century Society has applied to have the Will Alsop-designed La Frégate cafe in Jersey protected to prevent it being demolished as part of plans to redevelop its waterfront site.

The cafe in St Helier, which was an early work designed by Stirling Prize-winning architect Alsop, is currently under threat of demolition as part of a wider plan by the Jersey Development Company to develop the site.

"Tragedy if this cafe were to be demolished"

Designed by Alsop in collaboration with local architect Derek Mason, the cafe opened in 1997 and looks like an upturned boat.

Twentieth Century Society applied to have the cafe listed as, although small, it is a significant early work by Alsop, who passed away aged 70 in 2018.

"Just occasionally a tiny building can have a big impact – that's definitely the case here," said Twentieth Century Society director Catherine Croft.

"La Frégate is playful and joyous, and a rare example of a work by one of the most extraordinarily inventive architects of the past few decades," she told Dezeen.

"It would be a tragedy if this cafe were to be demolished and we hope that the feasibility studies currently underway will show that it's possible to save it."

La Frégate cafe by Will Alsop
La Frégate cafe is under threat of demolition

The La Frégate cafe is currently under threat as it is not included in the Jersey Development Company's plans for the redevelopment of the site, which were submitted to planning last week.

Masterplanned by UK studio Gillespies, the 11.5 hectare site is set to have 1,000 homes as well as office blocks, cafes, shops, an indoor swimming pool, cinema and arts building, built on it.

According to the Jersey Development Company, the cafe will be removed as the seawall protecting the site needs to be raised by 1.2 metres to prevent flooding.

"[Our] consultant's advice was that the sea defences needed to be raised by 1.2m and the slipway relocated," said a spokesperson for the Jersey Development Company.

"In order to maintain views out over the seawall the land level needs to increase by the same amount," they continued.

"La Fregate cafe is located in close proximity to the seawall and in order to increase the land levels, it is proposed to be removed."

Cafe a "much-loved building"

Alsop was one of the UK's most recognised architects, known for designing distinctive colourful buildings including The Sharp Centre for Design at the Ontario College of Art & Design in Canada and Peckham Library in London, which won the Stirling Prize in 2000.

Marcos Rosello, who co-founded London studio All Design with Alsop, believes that the media attention is drawing attention to the "little gem" of a building.

"I spent seven years growing up in Jersey and have fond memories of it, so this is quite close to my heart in many ways, said Rosello.

"The local support in Jersey shows it is another much-loved building and the publicity is making more people aware of this little gem."

Cafe on Jersey waterfront
It is not included in plans to redevelop the site

Rosello hopes that if the building has to be removed from its currently position it can be saved and rebuilt elsewhere. He cites Alsop's Cardiff Bay Visitor's Centre, which was relocated rather than demolished in 1994, as an example of this.

"Jersey Development Company are looking at the viability of moving it so let's hope this happens as this should be the worst case in this instance," said Rosello.

Jan Störmer, who was Alsop's partner at Alsop & Störmer when the cafe was designed and is currently a partner at Störmer Murphy and Partners, echoed Rosello feelings.

"It is a great pity that this iconic structure, which for many years has given the island a very special place, is to be demolished," he told Dezeen.

"The cafe has been an integral part of Saint Helier's identity for a quarter of a century. Its uniqueness and authenticity is a value for Jersey that should be preserved."

Following Alsop's death we rounded up his most significant buildings, and took a look at eight influential works designed by the architect that never got built.

The photography is courtesy of Twentieth Century Society.