In truth, the scale of this inner court is too small to feel particularly akin to a square. Due to the tower sitting prominently forward to the west, it also feels a little over-shadowed, especially in the afternoon when you’d imagine residents of the lower block might be wanting to sit on their balconies in the sun.
Percentage of floor area with daylight factor >2% All bedrooms and living rooms in the tower achieve average daylight factor >2%
Percentage of floor area with daylight factor >5% All living rooms in the tower achieve average daylight factor >5%
On-site energy generation None
Total energy load (regulated energy use) 45 kWh/m2/yr
Annual mains water consumption 100 litres/day/occupant
Airtightness at 50Pa 2.43 m3/hr/m2
Overall area-weighted U-value Overall average saving of 35.81% (TER/DER) and a saving of 7.41% improvement on Fabric Energy Efficiency (TFEE/DFEE)
Embodied/whole-life carbon Not supplied
Predicted design life 60+ years
The steel railings are zinc anodised with a thick double-layer of white polyester powder coating on top to cope with the extreme weathering of the sea front. The density and length of the balusters also adds to the shading effect offered by the balconies’ depth on to the fully glazed façades behind. The balconies’ alternating curves also make them double-height in places where a lower one swells out while the one above snakes back. The railings’ nautical whiteness is complemented by the paleness of the exposed concrete soffits, the tower’s frame being a 40 per cent GGBS mix with a naturally whiter tone than more cement-heavy mixes.
Sitting directly on the seafront, the site was designated a ‘gateway’ in the local plan, with the potential for such a landmark building. It certainly has a prominent urban position, marking where the town centre’s esplanade ends and the building-line steps back to the coastal road, leading around a long shallow curving bay towards Brighton.
Worthing’s seafront environment provides a rigorous test for a façade’s water and air tightness. Wind can drive rainwater horizontally and vertically, and salt spray accumulates on the façade surfaces. A leak can result from the most minor defect. So when designing, making and installing the façades, there is no margin for error.
Certainly, this seaside town, which sits west along the coast from its larger neighbour, has a more sedate, quieter vibe as you walk along its seafront, be that it’s composed of similar, if less grand, whitewashed Regency and Victorian terraces. There’s a pier, a gaggle of fish and chip shops and a struggling high street. Its mix of faded coffee bars and charity shops is typical of that found in many smaller seaside towns even prior to the current retail crunch.
Certainly, talking with Cheal, he appears very mindful of his company’s local roots and clearly committed to ensuring this is not some generic, helicoptered-in development but one that connects to the town. While the mix of flats includes the predictably large and expensive 164m2 units in the tower, selling for up to £1.6 million, it also includes 55m2 £200k units – a price that is at least in touch with local ‘affordability’. Indeed, Cheal says that of the 141 flats, only eight are second homes, with 50 per cent of the scheme’s residents coming from Worthing and 75 per cent from Sussex.
The tower’s somewhat squat appearance is masked by what appears to be a skin of balconies, rippling in and out
The top handrail is formed of approximately 5m lengths to reduce the number of visible joints along the length of the balcony as well as provide rigidity to the system by mechanically tying the panels together.
Jonathan Stern, associate, Allies and Morrison
Anodising is the main frame finish to windows and curtain walling. The architect’s design also needed polyester powder on metal railings and on some sheet metal detailing. Mild steel balustrades were degreased and grit blasted, then zinc sprayed to a high corrosivity classification. The steel was then primed and coated with marine-grade polyester powder, with both layers at 60-70 microns thickness. Warranties were obtained for both finishes. Regular maintenance is essential to preserve the finishes.
The tower’s playful form belies its pragmatic simplicity: a simple, glazed, orthogonal building, containing three apartments per floor, is set back behind the curvaceous white metal balcony railings that become the principal feature of the elevation. The shape of this balcony alternates at each floor, arranged so that each room has both shelter from the sometimes fierce coastal weather and a wide view of the sky. This has produced a lantern-like structure whose translucent surface is also a reminder of a different kind of coastal structure, the lighthouse and the lookout.
Jonathan Stern, associate, Allies and Morrison
Indeed overall, the scheme’s layout has a nice sense of openness and permeability to passers-by and its surroundings, while maintaining a threshold of privacy for residents. Its edges successfully weave it into the town. Thus on the busy Brighton Road, the scale of the development’s five-storey façade is broken up with set-backs and differing brick tones into large townhouse-like elements, while a commercial space takes up the ground floor – currently occupied by architects.
Bringing the development to fruition was challenging for us and our construction team but now we feel honoured to have been part of the large team that worked tirelessly to achieve this.
Ben Cheal, managing director, Roffey Homes
It’s apparently about as louche as Worthing has ever got. ‘Yes, we’re usually seen as Brighton’s staid aunt,’ says Ben Cheal, managing director of local developer Roffey Homes, the client for the Bayside scheme.
Making one of a series of special seaside buildings that punctuate Worthing’s seafront, the tower is lined with generous balconies, their bold form and delicate surface made of the fine white architectural metalwork that characterises so much of the best of Worthing‘s 19th-century architecture, and recalls the flamboyance of traditional English seaside towns.
A clean, smooth concrete surface was achieved through careful concrete specification, intentional formwork setting out, and working closely with the frame contractor. Peri Skydeck, which requires only very thin horizontal elements touching the slab face, was used to prop the formwork. When re-propping the slab after striking, phenolic-film faced ply was placed between the concrete and prop head in order to avoid staining and scuffing the concrete face.
From the outset, their designs clearly referenced Worthing’s historic buildings, translating them into a contemporary design, which helped the development gain unanimous approval. They pushed me on the project’s sustainable credentials, improving the efficiency of the building fabric and using the balconies to provide solar shading.
It’s not a shy and retiring addition to the seafront yet, overall, it sits comfortably in its outlier position as end point to the esplanade. Stern references Brighton’s Art-Deco Embassy Court as an inspiration – a well-loved block that apparently shocked that town with its bulk and form when it first appeared on the seafront in the 1930s. Certainly, talking to a small unscientifically-selected number of people on Worthing’s esplanade, there was generally positive feedback – although the most memorable comment came from one person who sniffily observed: ‘It looks rather like a loaf of stale bread.’
The balcony structure itself is made of in-situ cast concrete with a 40 per cent GGBS cement replacement. Not only does this significantly reduce the structure’s embodied carbon, the GGBS also gives the concrete a warmer tone, allowing it to be used as the finished face of the balcony soffits.
This unique site, right on Worthing promenade at the eastern gateway to the town centre, presented a real opportunity to show the aspirations of my hometown. Alongside the new Splashpoint Leisure Centre, we have created a new destination on Worthing seafront.
The quid pro quo to finance the new complex was that the council had to sell the main portion of the Aquarena site for development. It was bought by Worthing-based Roffey Homes, which commissioned Allies and Morrison to design a residential scheme for the site after previously having had a 21-storey tower by another architect refused. The new scheme, which won planning in 2016, consists of a five to six-storey U-shaped block and 15-storey ‘gateway’ tower.
This forms a durable and low-maintenance external finish (essential in this exposed coastal location) and removes embodied carbon in the form of finishes and subframes.
Façade engineer’s view
To the west, the balconied façade gives an urban animation and form to the forecourt in front of the Splashpoint Leisure Centre, while to the east it drops to five storeys, reading more like a terrace, with its front edge politely in line with an existing Victorian terrace that strings out to the east. Facing the beach, except for an inner area of residents’ garden, the whole scheme is largely accessible to the public, with areas of planting and, notably, the provision of a small café/restaurant pavilion on its south-east corner, which sits in a perfect position with a sea-facing terrace. This was an element originally suggested by the architect and then adopted by the developer as a key element.
The courtyard façades of this lower block are considerably blander than those of the tower, with vertical strips of glazing interspersed with pale brickwork panels, balconies tokenistically swelling out but without the generosity of the tower. On plan too, many of its flats are disappointingly single aspect. But internally, the connective tissue between the two elements is on a generous scale with a residents’ lounge and wellness centre, including a small pool on the tower’s ground floor, removed but visible from the esplanade and animating its base.
Bayside recalls Worthing’s early residential developments as well as Brighton and Hove’s Regency squares. A U-shaped courtyard of two to six-storey blocks encloses a planted garden, its southern edge open to the seafront. At its western corner, a distinctive 15-storey tower is a deliberate counterpoint to the horizontal massing of the Splashpoint Leisure Centre next door. Together with the new seafront square, it marks the start of the esplanade and the town beach.
Allies and Morrison was able to demonstrate how giving up almost two-thirds of the site’s sea frontage to public realm, alongside a feature café, would in fact allow us to achieve more sea-facing apartments.
The site is set out as an open courtyard. Large openings provide excellent levels of natural light, while overheating is mitigated passively through large, undulating balconies on the tower and generously sized balconies on the garden and street buildings. A fabric-first approach to energy use means the project benefits from highly insulated walls and roofs. The resulting wall-thickness allows deep window reveals, which themselves contribute to the scheme’s solar control strategy.
The site was previously occupied by the 1960s Aquarena Leisure centre, which closed in 2013, having previously suffered structural problems and high maintenance costs. It was replaced the same year by a new, more compact pool complex, the Splashpoint Leisure Centre, on the eastern portion of the site. Designed by WilkinsonEyre, it’s a late-noughties essay in timber cladding and jutting geometric overhangs, which has aged surprisingly well, looking both appropriately jaunty and nautical.
Walking from Worthing Station to this new residential development sitting at the eastern end of the town’s seafront esplanade, I pass a blue plaque on a Regency terrace house, marking playwright Harold Pinter having lived there in the 1960s.
‘We wanted to let the balconies do the work: to read as the building and make the architecture,’ says Allies and Morrison associate Jonathan Stern. ‘The inspiration was the town’s Regency terraces with all their extravagant verandas and filigree.’
Start on site January 2018
Completion March 2021
Gross internal floor area 22,800m2 (16,500m2 conditioned)
Construction cost £47 million
Architect Allies and Morrison
Client Roffey Homes
Structural engineer SWP (pre-planning), Manhire Associates (post-planning)
M&E consultant Building Services Design
Quantity surveyor Westbrooke Developments
Project manager Westbrooke Developments
Principal designer Allies and Morrison (pre-planning), Westbrooke Developments (post-planning)
Approved building inspector Worthing Borough Council
Main contractor Westbrooke Developments
CAD software used Revit
Annual CO2 emissions 9.79 kgCO2/m2
Façade engineer Cladding Consultancy Services
Landscape architect Lizard Landscape
Planning consultant Ece Planning
Fire engineer The Fire Surgery
Conversely, a number of south-east coastal towns, from Margate to Folkestone, have recently been undergoing noticeable revival, driven in part by an influx of new residents, often younger people and creatives priced out of London. Now, tardily, Worthing is perhaps about to experience its own moment in the sun, having recently been voted ‘the best British coastal resort to move to in 2023’. While listicles come and go, this accolade coincides with a new Allies and Morrison-designed landmark raising its 15-storey head above the town’s mostly four-storey parapet-line.
The tower, of course, is just the most prominent feature of the scheme. It sits on the end of the western arm of the lower U-shaped block, the inner court of which opens out to face the sea. Stern says the idea for the form came from the distinctive garden squares seen in Worthing and Brighton, and that it democratically allows all residents a view, even if slanting, of the sea, so spreading ‘value across the site’.
Façade durability and water and air tightness are key. The curtain walling, windows, sliding doors and rainscreen cladding were specified to be watertight at 900 pascals air pressure differential. And two lines of defence to water entry were essential.
Balusters are formed of 26.9mm hollow steel tubes, an atypically large diameter that means the vertical rods together form a visual surface around the full perimeter of the balcony and building. A solid infill bar is welded to the bottom section, locally strengthening the connection point and capping the tube. Modules are therefore comparatively lightweight and were fabricated in relatively short lengths of around 1.2m – a significant benefit for future maintenance as well as not requiring mechanical hoisting equipment for installation.
The balustrade system comprises four main separate components: fixing brackets, fascia plate, baluster panels, and handrail. Balusters are individually fixed back, on spacers through the fascia panel, to the primary steel support brackets. This spaced connection was designed to express the balusters as a delicate and lightweight wraparound, and has a dual function: fixing bolts are located above the slab and waterproofing, allowing the 1.2m balustrade modules to be fixed and demounted on-site to the brackets and fascia plate.
Hose testing checked watertightness of the completed windows and curtain walling. A ‘lift and slide’ door was pressure box tested in situ. Pressure box testing involved inducing an air pressure differential using an internal chamber, while simultaneously wetting the outside with water.
Brendan Donaghy, consultant and managing director, Cladding Consultancy Services
In urban terms, this is an impressive scheme; good-mannered in its relationship to the rest of the town, sitting strikingly yet comfortably as a punctuation on its seafront and with a nice touch of seaside pizzazz delivered by the balconies, which compensate for its otherwise more average architecture. It’s one of those buildings that, one senses, may in time bolster the town’s identity and perhaps even become a source of local pride. ‘I actually had someone from the council saying that perhaps it could have been six storeys higher,’ says Cheal.
While the tower looks somewhat squat as you approach, this is masked by its being swathed in what appears to be a skin of balconies, rippling in and out, the overall form vaguely reminiscent of Farshid Moussavi’s 2017 La Folie Divine apartment block in Montpellier. The ‘skin’ effect is created by the dense closely coupled white uprights of the balconies’ balustrades, which also extend down below the balcony soffits in a delicate fringe.