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Archive - Thursday, 7 April 2005
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Residents are delighted by their first glimpses of renovated city landmark
The public has been given its first glimpse of a revamped seafront eyesore.
Workers have begun dismantling the scaffolding surrounding Brighton's Embassy Court following the first phase of a £4.2 million project to restore the badly-decayed Thirties masterpiece.
The distinctive 11-storey building is considered to be one of the finest examples of modernist architecture in the world and was an exclusive residence for the rich and famous when it first opened.
But since the late Seventies, Embassy Court has gradually fallen into disrepair under the control of a succession of freeholders who failed to maintain it.
A long-running legal battle was only resolved in 2003 when residents' company Bluestorm was handed control of the building.
By then it had become a filthy blot on the seafront, characterised by rotten and boarded-up windows, crumbling concrete and a reputation as a haunt for drug addicts.
Bluestorm quickly launched a massive fund-raising effort for the renovations, which began in August last year but have been shrouded by the scaffolding and a safety screen until now.
The company has been assisted by internationally-renowned design firm Conran Partners.
The results of the facelift are now slowly being revealed, with gleaming new windows and smart cream concrete facade.
Emma Jinks, chairwoman of Bluestorm, said: "I can't tell you how amazing it is to step back and look at the building now.
"I want to stand here and compare it with a picture of how bad it was because it is almost hard to believe now.
"That famous crazy and decaying building on the seafront is now gone forever and a new one has been born."
She said it was the first payback for leaseholders, who paid £65,000 each for the work, and residents, who have had to put up with months of noise, dirt and darkness while the renovation work took place.
Miss Jinks added: "We can all now be proud of living in a truly lovely building.
"A lot of people have said it has been horrible living here for the last few months during the building work and there are many more months to come but people are now seeing the results and saying it is worth it.
"Some of the older leaseholders had doubts about the whole project but they're now saying it looks fantastic and is well worth all the time, money and effort."
"It has been a huge job and we are very proud."
Resident Cara Courage said: "We stood on Hove Lawns and looked at it earlier in the week and I could feel myself welling up. It is very emotional and everyone is thrilled with the results."
A champagne reception will be held on Sunday to mark the completion of the first phase and thank everyone involved.
The scaffolding on the front and side of Embassy Court should be completely removed in the next three weeks but the work is far from over.
Attention will now turn to the back of the building, where the windows and fascia will be replaced and the antiquated plumbing and heating systems overhauled.
The front doors will also be replaced with specially commissioned ones made to the original designs.
The project is due for completion in September.
Not content with a multimillion pound facelift, Bluestorm is planning even more renovations to ensure Embassy Court never again slides into disrepair.
Long-term plans include a basement swimming pool and gymnasium, full refurbishment of the foyer to its original opulence, restoration of a long-lost mural by renowned artist Edward McKnight-Kauffer and the creation of a "showcase" flat featuring original Thirties fixtures, fittings and works of art.
Bluestorm also wants to create an archive of the works of Embassy Court architect Wells Coates and establish a board of trustees to protect the cultural and architectural heritage of the building for future generations.
Company director and resident Rowena Easton said: "There is a lot of space in the basement, which could be used for a pool or gym but we are leaving that decision until all the flats are freehold and it can be done democratically.
"The foyer, at the moment, is basically an empty grey concrete hall.
"When the building opened it had a concierge's desk, phone booth, furniture and was very luxurious.
"There was also a pioneering mural depicting seaside motifs, which was created through a new process of exposing the image directly into the plaster.
"We would love to restore all that."
Conran Partners director Paul Zara said: "We must think of this as the start of something.
"If the building isn't preserved and improved from this point onwards, then all this effort will have been wasted.
"Imagine Embassy Court with its original reception area - reception desk, porter, comfortable seating, stunning works of art.
"Imagine enjoying the sunset from the rooftop, drinking Martinis. Imagine a pool and a gym in the basement.
"It's all there if you want it."