The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Modernist seaside gem to be dwarfed. The De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill is threatened by adjacent development.

Seaspace, an initiative by the government body South East England Development Agency, has instigated a competition for a major mixed-use development on a vacant seafront site next to the grade I listed De La Warr Pavilion. Three schemes have been short-listed. On Friday, April 30, a panel including representatives of Seaspace, the Pavilion Trust, the Arts Council and the head of Rother District Council, will decide on the winning design.

All three finalists, ABK, Aukett and Chapman Taylor with van Heynigan and Haward, have designed buildings that surpass the pavilion in height. The schemes propose to block important views of the Pavilion from Bexhill as well as from the seashore. It is not surprising that, following a brief that asks for a 60-bedroom hotel, apartments, office and retail space, all practices came up with designs much larger than the Pavilion. The Society opposes the idea of building a development of such density and height in close proximity to the Pavilion.

The De La Warr Pavilion was built in 1933-5 to designs of Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff. At the time it was the first major welded steel frame building in Britain and one of the few modern public buildings. The pavilion is grade I listed, a status rarely attributed to twentieth century buildings. It is located next to the sea and has gained iconic status due to its elegant modernist architecture and its prime location. The Pavilion is being refurbished at the moment with the benefit of a large lottery grant, i.e. public money.

Rather that regenerating Bexhill, the proposed scheme would dwarf the Pavilion and over develop Bexhill and is therefore opposed by the Twentieth Century Society. More appropriate alternative sites would be available for smaller developments close by, such as a boutique or family hotel which would be far preferable. All the current proposals are short-sightedly profit driven and would cause irreparable damage to this key site.

For further information please contact:
Cordula Zeidler at the Twentieth Century Society on 020 7250 3857, or on 07930 2751 24, or Cordula.Zeidler(at)
Rother District Council, Graham Gubby, tel: 01424 787878
Seaspace, John Shaw, tel: 01424 781200