Richard Bingham continues “Shoreham Unlisted”, his series of articles on the unsung heroes of Shoreham’s architecture. Here he takes a look at a relative newcomer. 

It’s very Shoreham. Flashes of modernity against a thoroughly traditional backcloth. Amenable, even humble.

Perhaps that’s why, despite being very new, the Shoreham Centre already feels like an old friend.

Opened in 2013, the new building occupies a large site on Pond Road. It is, in fact, an extensive remodelling of the original community centre built in the 1970s on the site of the old Shoreham Grammar School. A plaque on the façade commemorates the former school.

Today, the Centre houses the Council Chamber, The Skyway Art Gallery, the Pond Road Café and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, as well as a host of rooms for hire and a large hall for entertainments and special events.

By any measure, as a multi-purpose venue, the Centre has been a spectacular success. No fewer than 72 regular classes and groups meet there.

The Civic Barn?

The building itself is reassuringly asymmetrical, consisting of seven bays to the south but only three to the north. The three bays to the north are new, but have been designed to continue the  pitched, tiled roof.

At ground level, the frontage is brick and tile-hung. In retaining the flint wall that surrounds the site, another touch of Sussex vernacular is added. The Shoreham Centre could almost be a barn conversion.

The range of ten dormer windows add to this effect, although here the materials selected – the flush white surrounds, the grey-painted timber cladding, the large glazing panels – are less traditional.

The part of the building which gets a lot more up-to-date is tucked away on its side elevation along Western Road. Designed by project architects ECE Architecture, the new north wing houses the Council chamber and offices. Here, the roof turns out to be mono-pitch. It soars above a connected glazed stair tower. The flat roof on the other side and the complex glazing plan means that the building presents a more modern face to Western Road.

Returning to Pond Road, it is impossible to miss the grand portico, or porch, that leads to the main entrance. The rectilinear, undecorated bronze cladding sparkles in the sunshine, granting a touch of opulence to the facade. It is the only indicator that, despite all its vernacular dressing, The Shoreham Centre is a modern civic centre containing the seat of local government.

To enhance its ceremonial status, the portico is flanked on either side by two huge windows framed in the same metallic cladding. The glass has been etched with the masts of sailboats, a nod to the town’s coastal setting and its maritime heritage. Also illustrated is an art deco aeroplane, a reference to the airport that consolidates the significance of Shoreham’s transport links.

The building thus announces the identity of Adur without demonstrating too much civic pride. In dull weather, even the bronze cladding blends in politely with the browns of the bricks and tiles. Perhaps it says something about local government now: underfunded, fearing any accusation of bureaucratic hubris, a little apologetic about itself.

Inside the main entrance, the double-height foyer is an airy, welcoming, democratic space. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau is located here and the walls upstairs and down have been turned into The Skyway Gallery. The mezzanine floor leads to further meeting rooms and the Council offices.

Missed Opportunities

The ghosts of other buildings surround The Shoreham Centre. It faces a former old people’s home long since demolished but still a vacant lot. A more ambitious civic centre was originally planned, including the pedestrianisation of Pond Road and rebuilds of the library and GP’s surgery. None of this has come to pass.

The Shoreham Centre has created a new place for the town. It brings local people together. And yet, as a building, it also seems to typify something about where Shoreham is at the moment…hesitating to embrace the future, it prefers to hold onto its past.

Richard Bingham

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Last modified: June 3, 2024