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Designers' first taste of Embassy Court

A team of architects and engineers put together by design guru Sir Terence Conran has made its first visit to Embassy Court, the run-down Brighton landmark.

Swimming pools, a restaurant, an art gallery and a museum could be part of the long-awaited £5 million restoration of the seafront block.

The architects believe they cannot only restore the grimy, rotting structure but also add in ambitious new features to open the building to the public.

Embassy Court in Kings Road was designed by architect Wells Coates and featured penthouse apartments, a restaurant and a bank.

However, the 110ft-tall building fell into severe disrepair as disputes raged as to who should pay for maintenance.

Many flats were taken over by absentee leaseholders and a succession of freeholders, building up a backlog of rent and service charge arrears.

Bluestorm, a company set up by Embassy Court residents, finally won its David and Goliath-style battle with property developers last year to gain responsibility for the restoration.

Leaseholders of the 104 flats will be asked to contribute to the project's costs, though Bluestorm will also be applying for heritage grants.

Bluestorm chairman Emma Jinks, whose share of the costs would be about £65,000, said: "Everyone we've spoken to is very enthusiastic and wants to see the place done up properly.

"Although the property is privately-owned, the exterior of Embassy Court and how it contributes to Brighton belongs to everyone so hopefully we can get some support from the council or Government.

"This first site visit is a historic moment for Embassy Court."

Fellow Bluestorm director Rowena Easton said: "As well as restoring the building, there is potential for new developments in unused space like tank rooms and boiler rooms.

"We are looking at having swimming pools, a restaurant, a museum of modernism or Wells Coates, and a contemporary art space.

"For too long people have thought of Embassy Court as an eyesore. But it's the most important 20th Century building in Brighton and we want to restore it and celebrate that history."

Sir Terence Conran is taking a keen interest.

Conran and Partners director Paul Zara, who is leading the project, said: "Sir Terence knew Wells Coates and has always been a big fan of the building. He's watching this very closely.

"We want to achieve a balance between getting back to its original appearance but not just coming up with an artificial copy.

"The structure is actually pretty sound but it will be a big challenge bringing it back to its white, crisp modernist splendour. There is enormous enthusiasm to get on with it though."

The first stage of work will involve putting fan hoardings around the building to protect against falling render and glass during the coming winter months.

A three-year timescale has been put on the project and residents will have to be given alternative accommodation during parts of the work.

Michael King, 57, who moved in 20 years ago, said: "This is the most confident we've been that the building can finally be restored."

Monday September 22, 2003

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