Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Threat to Charles Barry hospital building

Probable redevelopment of the Royal County Sussex Hospital in Brighton would almost certainly entail the loss of the imposing 1828 Barry building shown above. It certainly has no place in the indicative model of the replacement hospital, also shown (below). The Barry building occupies the space taken up in the model by the low-rise, grass-roofed building on the left. Barry is often thought of as a Victorian architect but his career straddled the transitional period between Georgian and Victorian and much of his early work prefigures his later accomplishments. He could do iconic of course, as in the Houses of Parliament, but he could also do contextual, as at the Royal Sussex (just north of the Georgian quarter of Kemp Town), where the cream stucco echoes the Regency terraces of Brighton and Hove.

Clinical needs do change and hospitals are prone to continuous accretive development, so Barry's building has its fair share of haphazard, ad hoc additions, but the pedimented central bay and the rusticated projecting wings are still clearly legible behind the mess. While it is virtually impossible for health buildings to escape alteration altogether, there is scope for rationalisation of accommodation within the context of a wider masterplan for the hospital site. Provision of efficient services and high-quality facilities should be compatible with retention of the beacon Barry building. We await developments.

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