New England Square

Brighton and Hove

Forty- two storey tower, containing a hotel and residential space, next to Brighton station and a new public square. Designed by Allies and Morrison.

We commented on this project following a presentation to our Design Review Panel on 9 September 2004. The latest drawings were considered by a CABE Commissioner and Design Review staff and our views, based on good knowledge of the site and the material supplied, are as follows.

At the September meeting the panel members were impressed by the elegance of the strategy informing the design of the tower, and the simplicity of the pattern of layering to the facades which, we believed had the potential to become an object of beauty. We welcomed the creation of a new city space open to the public on the top of the tower, and the thought given to the internal planning of the flats; these all benefiting from great views.

There were a few issues we felt needed addressing following the review. We are now satisfied that the majority of these points have been resolved:

  • The detailed designs of the cladding of the tower have evolved to reflect the residential and hotel uses through the different width and material finish to the panels.
  • The relationship between the tower and podium block has been resolved; the break, or 'cut-back', between the rear of the tower and the lower block maintaining the strong diagram of the tower.
  • The changes to the internal planning of the residential units in the southern block have addressed our concerns regarding the level of daylight into these flats through the thoughtful distribution of habitable rooms and planning of the main living area to maximise the available southern aspect.
  • The introduction of the canopy, both as a means of dealing with wind problems and as an element to deal with the transition in scale between the tower and the new public square works well, in our view. It provides a unifying element linking the base of the tower with the stairs and lifts which are principle elements in the new square.

Our only remaining concerns relate to the public realm:

  • We believe more thought should be given to the external staircase leading from the square to the station, which has the potential to leave an unsatisfactory 'space leftover after planning' at the lower level in the proposed square
  • We think that the pedestrian route running along the west side of the hotel appears to be unnecessary and potentially a rather unpleasant route at night with the high screen walls and numerous 'kinks' - there are alternative routes which do not appear to involve much of a detour.

It is important that signage, particularly for the hotel, is given as much thought as the design of the buildings and public realm at this stage in the project.

As stated in our previous letter, the challenge is to deliver the level of quality this intelligent response promises through to the final stage; a tower of this height will have to set a new standard if it is to justify the presence it will command within the city. We wish to be clear that support for the potential of this project does not represent carte blanche for tall building proposals or the formation of a cluster in this location.

We continue to support this scheme and think that it has strengthened in evolution; we have no need to see it again. It will be important to condition the detailed design and materials of this scheme as part of any planning permission to ensure the delivery of a high quality scheme, advice on this is given in the CABE document 'Protecting Design Quality in Planning'.