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BOOK

REVIEW

De La Warr Pavilion: The Modernist Masterpiece By Alastair Fairley.Merrell, 2006. £29.95

The De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill-on-Sea remains one of the most unlikely Modern Movement icons, beached in a visually and architecturally mundane South Coast resort - the late Victorian creation of the local landlord, the Seventh Earl De La Warr. No match for Eastbourne, let alone glamorous Brighton, in terms of its visitor appeal, Bexhill nevertheless had a progressive edge. It was the first British resort to allow mixed-sex bathing. By the early 20th century, a cinema was in operation and motor races took place along the seafront.

It was the Ninth Earl who launched the pavilion project with a competition that was won, in 1934, by Mendelsohn and Chermayeff. It was a highprofile affair - submissions by Oliver Hill and Max Fry were unplaced. The appointment of Mendelsohn and Chermayeff, described (exaggeratedly in the case of Harrow-educated Chermayeff) as 'aliens who have found it advisable to ee from their own land', was unpopular in some quarters.

After a brief owering during the 1930s, the De La Warr Pavilion quickly lost its gloss and by the 1970s seemed doomed. Fairley's book is a celebration of its renaissance, managed by John McAslan + Partners, and culminating in a triumphant reopening earlier this year. The competent (if brief) text tells a familiar story, but the wealth of drawings and photographs, showcased by exceptional standards of design, make a book of broad appeal to enthusiasts of the thirties.

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