5.9.16…..In the wake of saveHOVE’s post upon first learning of redevelopment plans, we had a meeting with the architects at the Cornerstone Community Centre, Palmeira Square on August 2nd.
Six of us met with Keb Garavito-Bruhn from Pilbrow & Partners – the architects engaged by Polly Samson – and others from the project team putting this newbuild scheme into planning form. Only six could be accommodated and they were: Ruth and Barbara from Benham Court, David from Bath Court, retired architect John Small, terracotta specialist Amy Frankie Smith and Valerie. David’s ground floor flat is at the back of Bath, facing Sussex Road and Barbara’s in Benham is at current Medina House roof height. They were chosen because height had to be discussed and they were in a position to offer informed views on that as closely affected.
It was stressed to the architects that they needed to meet especially with Victoria Cottages and Sussex Road residents and they said letters had gone out to them. Unfortunately only daytime meetings were offered and this has caused a certain amount of bad feeling with residents who missed out. But the public exhibition at King Alfred, from 4-8pm on the Thursday, 15th and again from 10-2pm on Saturday, 17th ahead of a planning application means they are not being bypassed.
The Royal Doulton Tiles
It was pleasing to learn that Amy’s Fellowship paper on the Medina House bespoke Royal Doulton tiles had been read by the architects. Indeed, they will remain in touch with her as their project progresses. The proposal includes retention of the remaining tiles on the back wall area.
There is a limit to how much a building can take and still remain viable for restoration/re-use. Has that limit been reached? This is a key question which the planning application will have to answer. Loss of the existing Medina House will inevitably be resisted, as loss of the West Pier is STILL resisted, even now!
Ruth and Valerie wanted to see both the 2012 Survey of Medina House and the Planning Brief we worked so hard to achieve addressed at this meeting.
They have of course done a new survey. Keb Garavito-Bruhn, presenting to us, said that the steel joist claims from the 2012 survey were faulty and that structural issues with the outside (retaining) walls included a sunken area a metre deep and one wall with a blown out area. It is their view that the building cannot be converted/saved. The building has suffered 18 years of abuse, including two arsons since 2012, the last of which saw roof trusses removed to facilitate a roof collapse (which did not happen).
Demolition, with the ghost of Medina House made solid is what is proposed, effectively. It is clear Polly Samson (and husband David) gave the architects this brief. And a very poetic rebirth is what is proposed. Lazarus, the phoenix arisen – call it what you like – that is what we looked at.
Newbuilds which incorporate material from demolished sites is not a new thing, and when done well, keep the spirit of the old building alive. But in this case, the entire shape and detailing of Medina House is repeated, but clad in ‘chalk’ coloured brick. The clay bricks are narrow and textured. The Magistrates Court in Lansdowne Road uses it on an end wall. At the back of the filled-in pool area, the tiling is to be kept on that back wall within a glass-fronted ‘winter garden’.
The design has some elegance in spite of Pilbrow’s website showing their work to be about big, muscular, knuckle-duster blocks and towers. It is clear the Gilmours had a lot of input into this design – because it is quiet. No muscular swagger or screaming look-at-me ugliness. It is very likeable.
HEIGHT: The newbuild ‘Medina House’ was proposed to us to be 3.7 metres higher than at present. This is partly because of ground conditions so close to the sea and need to be flood free but also because of need to put windows higher up for privacy. So the ground floor inside would be raised up a bit. Nevertheless height is a contentious issue.
Strong representations were made at our meeting about this increase and it remains to be seen whether the height will come down. David and Barbara have overshadowing and views issues of some severity. Valerie went to bat for the tiny Victoria Cottages and Sussex Road homes and gardens directly behind the back wall. They are not well served with light now and planning officers have in the past indicated to Valerie that nothing higher than the present building could replace Medina House. We made it clear this was a non-negotiable issue for us. And it affects the Bath Court flats facing Sussex Road too.
ROOFSPACES: Quite a lot is expected of the newbuild, including useable rooms in the roofspace and the recessed dormer windows, along with big chimneys, are not beautiful. One of the features of the existing Medina House which gives it its unique quality and presence is its big, deep, unbroken roof. It was stressed that the house needed to accommodate extended family, blah, blah. What matters in planning terms, however, is how the building fits into the Cliftonville Conservation Area, the townscape, how it impacts on neighbours, and its long-term value, use and convertibility (to other uses than as a single dwelling), etc.
We do not forget that Polly was once said to have thought a spa on this site would be good….and many would STILL like this to be what is done with Medina House.
PARKING: There are parking spaces adjacent to Medina House in Sussex Road and there has been some discussion about trying to get them moved. It is unlikely that the applicants will pursue this.
MATERIALS: John Small asked about the bricks for cladding the newbuild. They are clay bricks, narrow and textured. Described as white, they are in fact chalk white which is creamy. Is this an appropriate material to use on this site? It is a consideration. A building that is too ‘muscular’ on this site could be overbearingly Grand. Materials contribute to the overall impression in this regard – enhancing or diminishing how imposing it would be. Indeed, Amy wondered what red brick would be like….
The Public Exhibition of Plans
King Alfred ballroom.
Thursday, September 15th from 4pm to 8pm and Saturday, September 17th from 10am to 2pm
Members of the project team will be on hand to discuss the scheme and how it has changed since we met with them on 2nd August.