Tag Archives: paul Zara
Our latest architectural project, The Light in Brighton, has just been given the go-ahead.
The project will turn the former ice rink in Queen Square into The Light ApartHotel, featuring sumptuous guest rooms, serviced luxury apartments, a café and a restaurant. It will be a further boon to Brighton’s tourist industry. Continue reading
Excuse the pun, please.
The head of our Brighton architecture office, Paul Zara, took to The Argus recently to talk about Brighton and Hove’s acute housing crisis, and his opinions on how to solve it.
Four they are jolly good fellows!
This week sees the 4th birthday of the Conran and Partners Brighton studio. Despite the recession kicking in soon after opening, after four years of trading the studio has doubled in size. The team has had some very significant London successes, including winning the project to redevelop Green Man Lane in Ealing to create over 700 new homes for A2Dominion/Rydon, to helping L&Q on their plans for the former Walthamstow Stadium. Most recently they won the project to redevelop the listed Lillian Baylis School in Lambeth.
In Brighton the team is working on the redevelopment of the Granada Cinema site on Portland Road in Hove for Affinity Sutton, further refurbishment of Embassy Court, the modernist landmark on the seafront (top of page), an amazing house on the beach in Hove, proposals for an apart-hotel on the former ice rink site in Queen Square and the city’s greenest office building on Gloucester Place.
Lee Davies and Paul Zara lead the 18-strong team and are confident about the future, despite the state of the world.
“The demand for housing is so great that it must eventually kick-start growth. We have an excellent track record locally and nationally and are well placed to assist our clients in moving their projects forward…
It’s been a very interesting four years, and I am very proud of the team we have built, they have strong skills and we are ready to take on any challenge that comes our way!”
Long may they continue..!
Given the current housing crisis in the UK, it’s useful to look back to the great decade of housing around 50 years ago.
In the book “A Decade of British Housing 1963-1973” the period is reviewed, lessons are learnt and the future of housing is debated.
At that stage only 6% of housing stock was made up of the output of the new voluntary housing groups (now called housing associations or RSLs) and by the end of the period architects were starting to look at a numbers of issues including reducing car use, shared surfaces, the end of fossil fuels, prefabrication, off-site timber frame construction and lack of land – so in many ways very little has changed!
The big opportunity that we are currently exploring is really about putting right some of those mistakes made 50 years ago.
When estates like Green Man Lane in Ealing were built they were the great hope for the future: optimistic 1960s living, with all the facilities you needed – shops, GP surgeries, nurseries, and a post office.
But a mixture of bad design, bad management and poor construction meant that many of these estates had a limited lifespan. At the time they met a need – slums were cleared away and bright airy new flats in the sky were the solution!
They in turn now offer a new solution. Estate regeneration allows us to take a fresh look at these places. Sometimes they need total demolition, with a complex plan for “decanting” residents, buying out or doing deals with leaseholders.
And sometimes all or part of the estate can be refurbished. Good buildings should be restored and re-used, despite their problems. Alison and Peter Smithson’s Robin Hood Gardens in East London is iconic and should be cherished. Look at the wonderful Park Hill in Sheffield saved by Tom Bloxham’s Urban Splash.
The result, if it works, can be high quality high-density urban living with multi-tenure housing serving diverse communities.
When working with residents on an estate I always tell them that my hope is that, when complete, their estate effectively disappears and is replaced instead by streets, squares and courtyards that are part of the city and part of the community.
I think we’re getting this right but we need to sort the issues around densification – we need schools, surgeries, shops, workplaces within easy reach, or ideally within these developments.
But the architecture has to be the best possible too – and that’s where “tenure-blind” architecture comes in to its own. If you need to sell flats and houses then the whole development must be good. No more affordable housing in the worst part of the site!
We are producing good affordable housing and we are providing some of the greenest housing in the UK, with better space standards than many private developers, though we still build some of the smallest flats in Europe.
We looked at this issue of density over two decades ago at Butlers Wharf. It’s now a new city quarter with houses, flats, shops, restaurants, offices, a nursery and a museum. It set new standards for urban living.
And now we are doing it again at a similar scale in Ealing, Walthamstow and other sites around London.
These developments, when they are large enough and have a critical mass, can change our city for the better, and we can show that we have learned from history and can make places that work!
Read more about our work on regenerating London’s housing estates here: www.conranandpartners.com
Quite a lot of people have asked me here in Brighton why we are trying to save Saltdean Lido while happily gaining planning approval to knock down the listed Astoria Cinema.
Well it’s simple. One is a good building and one is not.
The Lido was built as the heart of a new community – it has a library, a (once) grand ballroom, cafe, rooms to hire. If it was loved and run better and restored as well as the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, then it would be a regional and national attraction. Fish and chips and a glass of wine on the sun terrace would be a rare treat and we want to help make that happen.
The Astoria Cinema was knocked up in a few months as a big entertainment shed. It served its purpose and was, like so many cinemas, wrecked by conversion to a bingo hall decades ago. There’s almost nothing left worth keeping and what is left is mainly made from asbestos! (see the attached picture of a recent visit by local councillors). Not all old buildings are good. Some things improve with age (like a certain chairman) and other should be thrown away and replaced with something better.
Our proposals for the Astoria give the city it’s greenest office building, providing some of the best workspace, which is why the planning committee approved it. Deputy Leader of the Council Amy Kenned called it ‘A 21st Century building for a 21st century city”. We owe it to our towns and cities to design the best buildings we can, to create the listed buildings of the future. Don’t let sentiment hold us back!
Paul Zara, September 2011
Paul Zara is the Director of Conran & Partners in Brighton. Read more by Paul:
Click here to read more about saving Saltdean Lido
Whatever you thought of it as a business, Habitat’s decline and fall is very sad news indeed. We all have loads of Habitat in our homes, and its loss means more dreaded visits to IKEA (don’t ask me about my personal experience of buying a bed for my younger son. Or how long it took to make!). Or risking buying online - things never look quite the same, do they? And I’m not sure I want it that cheaply from China.
But what is happening? Woolworths, Habitat, Thorntons, HMV, Oddbins…what next? Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas is meant to be sorting it for the government – I wait with baited breath.
Meanwhile, Fiona Hamilton, retail partner at agents King Sturge is less pessimistic. Looking to the USA, source of all retail trends, they are forecasting a 5.1% annual increase in retail sales. In her recent Property Week article (6 May 11) she looks at social media and the role that now plays in marketing. Sites like Groupon and price comparison apps on your phone are big news. Both the luxury and the budget ends of the spectrum are thriving stateside and ‘stores within stores’ are big (“brand butlering” it’s called- keep up!). The big boys such as Walmart are looking at smaller stores, so will we see mini-ASDA’s competing with the ubiquitous Tesco? (I have 5 Tesco stores within 1 mile of my house).
But 4th July is Independent Retailers day. And all over the country we are being urged to buy at least one thing from an independent shop. This has to be an alternative, parallel route to bringing back our high streets. Here in Brighton we have the unique North Laine area, loads of small interesting shops, cafes and bars. It’s where the Body Shop started! Have a look at www.uniquebrighton.com or better still come here and spend some money.
Maybe the high street has a future after all.
Paul Zara, Director at Conran & Partners, Brighton office.
Conran & Partners Director Paul Zara, who heads up our Brighton office, never seems to be out of the media spotlight for long, as this article in Brighton newspaper The Argus shows.
There’s a lot going on down at our Brighton office at the moment- from helping to save Saltdean Lido to developing unique residential properties to the much talked about redeveloped of the Astoria (read his article to find out what’s really going on there…)
Plus noone can argue with his musings about how the rise in tuition fees may affect the future of architecture in this country…
- Click on the picture below to read the full interview and find out more about his vision for our favourite seaside city…