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Haworth Tompkins succeeds Gehry on Hove’s King Alfred redevelopment

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Stirling Prize-winner Haworth Tompkins has bagged the prize job to design the successor to Frank Gehry’s scrapped King Alfred scheme in Hove, East Sussex

Gehry’s hugely contentious seafront project, dubbed Tin Can Alley because of its crumpled metallic towers, was shelved in 2008 almost five years after the starchitect won the original competition (see AJ 10.11.08).

Haworth Tompkins, which is acting as masterplanner, is working with sports specialist LA Architects on the all-new scheme which will see the 1930s King Alfred sports centre flattened to make way for 560 homes and a ‘world-class leisure and community facilities’.

The designs were officially released yesterday after Brighton & Hove City Council - the site’s owner - announced that the Haworth Tompkins’ team, led by housebuilder Crest Nicholson and the Starr Trust, had been chosen as its preferred developer.

It is understood the bid was selected ahead of a rival proposal drawn up by Bouygues with Lomax Cassidy Edwards and Aecom.

Steve Tompkins, director and founding Partner of Haworth Tompkins, said: ’Three years ago, at a public meeting at the King Alfred Centre, Rob Starr, Darren Abrahams, my co-director Graham Haworth and myself stood on the stage and promised that we would do our best to deliver a new development worthy of this extraordinary site.

He added: ’[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.’

Mike Lawless, director of LA Architects said: ‘We have been involved with the King Alfred as local residents, users and, for eleven years, designers. 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.’

gehry king alfred

gehry king alfred


Rory Olcayto, AJ editor

’This is solid and dependable stuff by a very good architect. But the previous scheme, by Frank Gehry was more Brighton than this one. It was cartoonishly exotic, like the pier and the pavilion – it fitted right in. Still, its crumpled towers looks like a pre-crash relic today.’

Valerie Paynter, leader of the Save Hove conservation group

’The positive difference [between the new scheme and Gehry’s] is the public involvement from the announcement of the preferred bidder this time - instead of just piling in at the planning application stage. Karis [the developer behind the Gehry scheme] was appointed in July 2003 and its application went in September 2005. The competition design was junked in that two years and a totally different scheme was worked up for the planning application.

’We do not expect a planning application until next January.

’The Croydonesque appearance of the competition scheme from Haworth Tomkins is a problem. The winning bid was cheaper than Bouygues and it kind of shows in the pre-fab appearance of the sports centre and worries about materials for the towers too. People think it all looks very cheap. I don’ think it looks durable. I hope it will morph into something rather more graceful. Over and above aesthetics though, there are slab wall design issues on the east and west sides along with office-like bulk and styling that is not appropriate for the site - bad messaging.

’This is quite the heffalump isn’t it? That said, I am about to have a meeting with Rob Starr [of the Starr Trust] to look at his plans so I have hopes that the design development over the next several months will see as much of the issues resolved as can be ahead of the planning process.

’The council is putting in £8million which is probably why there are fewer flats by about 190 than Karis got consent for. We gird our loins and travel hopefully….or at least I’m trying to.’


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Readers' comments (1)

  • The Gehry scheme was indeed more 'Brighton' - in the raffish, rackety Brighton Rock sense. The Haworth Tompkins' scheme is more Hove - in the sense that it is solid, sensible, and, most important, stands a better chance of getting built.

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