MODERNISM: PAUL ZARA TELLS US WHY SALTDEAN LIDO IS AN ARCHITECTS DREAM
The clean lines of the UK's first grade two listed Lido are an unmistakable nod to modernist architecture which emerged during the first half of the 20th century. This beautiful structure was designed by R.W.H Jones and built in 1938. When it was built, the Lido was described as an innovative and revolutionary design.
If you haven't heard about the Saltdean Lido restoration project, where have you been? The campaign to save Saltdean Lido has already been a massive success, one that the people of Brighton have got behind, yet for now, only the swimming pool has been fully restored. I talk to Hove native, and chief architect Paul Zara of Conran and Partners to get the full story.
The Saltdean Lido is one of Brighton and Hove’s most important heritage projects, how did Conran and Partners become involved?
My sister Jane, who lives in Lewes, spotted the campaign to save the Lido and I contacted Rebecca Crook. I've always loved the building and I thought that maybe if we could provide some free support then perhaps we'd add something to the group's efforts. I met up with them and they were a passionate and intelligent crowd. We had to get involved.
What is your vision for sympathetically restoring the Lido?
It's quite simple. Get the pool open again (done). Then remove the 1960s additions that destroyed the symmetry. Then add a new element to the rear to provide a much-improved library and new spaces to generate revenue. Nothing we do will harm the beauty of the view from the front, and the concrete will be repaired, and the terrace opened to the public again.
What is the biggest challenge that you face? And how will you overcome it?
Three things: money, money and money. Lidos are glorious things, but they aren't good at making money. This quite modest building needs a huge amount of money to make it viable. I really think this can work here, even though it hasn't in the past. There's a huge resurgence in interest in outdoor swimming. And Saltdean Lido has been recognised as the most important in the UK. If we can't make this one work, then we're stuffed. It will work and will be a real draw for not just the local community but regionally and nationally.
What is it about the modernist movement that captivates you?
I fell in love with it when I was studying architecture in the 1980s. It is probably the biggest single change in architectural history. Throwing away the old ideas of tradition and looking to a bright new future of clean lines, daylight, open plan spaces, modern materials, and an architecture for all, democratic and international. It didn't always work out that way, but the aspirations were inspirational.
Conran and Partners have also restored some amazing other buildings such as Brighton’s Embassy Court and The Bluebird in Chelsea, do you have any other exciting projects in the pipeline?
Well the most exciting one is just completing. We have been restoring Richard Seifert's Centre Point tower and converting it to luxury apartments. It's an amazing project, even if I do say so myself, the build quality is so high, and it has taken a not very good 60s office block and transformed it in to a far better apartment tower. It also changes the public realm around the base from a heavily trafficked area to a calm south facing new London square.
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