RADICAL plans which could see a restaurant extended upwards towards the sky have been unveiled.

Celebrated Japanese restaurant Moshimo is looking to build a lightweight “lantern in the sky” above its existing restaurant in Bartholomew Square, Brighton.

The new 130-seat space would be 85-foot high and boast views out to sea over the top of the Thistle Brighton Hotel, as well as over The Lanes and towards the South Downs.

Co-owners Nicholas Röhl and Karl Jones are behind the ambitious proposals which would see the restaurant emerge like a periscope from the existing Moshimo.

It is designed to appear like a lantern in the sky from adjacent streets, with extensive work taken to prevent the modern structure being seen from neighbouring conservation areas.

It is hoped the contemporary approach could inspire the revamp of the tired 1980s square.

Mr Röhl said: “Acting like a beacon, Skylight will help continue the regeneration of Bartholomew Square.

“Nothing quite like this has been done before. Skylight will make a significant contribution to residents, businesses and visitors alike, strengthening Brighton’s position as a world-class place to live, work and visit.”

The food is expected to be Japanese influenced, though not as focused on sushi as Moshimo.

The restaurant introduced conveyor-belt sushi to Brighton, and is a pioneer in ethical dining and sustainable fishing, with its internationally-acclaimed celebrity-backed Fishlove campaign.

The owners created the design with Michael Spooner, the architect behind the original restaurant in 2000.

It will be supported by a lift shaft at one end, with the other resting on Bartholomew House, the home of Zizzi in Prince Albert Street.

The original restaurant will be expanded to accommodate the shaft.

The sustainably designed lightweight Skylight will be pre-fabricated off-site in Littlehampton in three parts, avoiding construction disruption to neighbours.

The Argus:

Nicholas Röhl and Karl Jones, co-owners of Moshi Moshi

It will have three viewpoints – a southeast facing lounge with views towards the Palace Pier, a central dining area around an open kitchen with views of the sea and city, and space to the north, with views towards Devil’s Dyke, Hollingbury and Ditchling Beacon. It will be approximately 46.8m long by 8.6m wide and 4.7m high.

Mr Röhl said: “In a sense this is an architectural response to the mistakes of the past. There’s so much compromise that comes into Brighton architecture because no-one is bold enough to do exciting things, and all the various voices can be very fractious.

“This is something we hope people can stand behind and support because it’s something extraordinary and beautiful.

“It can’t be seen from many parts of town, it doesn’t affect the skyline yet it should improve the space massively.

“There’s a lot of things going for it.”

Mr Jones added: “I think it’s probably the right time with Puget’s Lane coming forward.

“The Lanes are a massive tourist attraction but everyone needs to fight to keep this area great.

“A lot of independent businesses round here are really striving to keep their head above water. I hope that people will see that we are striving to do something great with this area.”

Architect Michael Spooner said the latest designs had been a “labour of love”.

He said: “The original restaurant became a roaring success in part because of the refreshing design.

“There’s now an aspiration to provide more space and a new dining experience, so we decided to look upwards for a site, way up, to the underused space at roof level.”

He added: “It’s quite a unique and bold idea. There aren’t a lot of examples like it. In other countries it makes complete sense to make the best use of views.

“The language of the design is about being lightweight, sustainable and fresh, which fits in with the ethos of the original restaurant.” Mr Röhl added: “Introducing sushi to Brighton 15 years ago was seen as a risk, not least given the challenge of Bartholomew Square’s uncompromising 1980s architecture.

“Skylight is another step on the road we embarked on in transforming the square into a unique, high quality and sustainable public space.”

The Argus: An artist impression of what the development would look like


NEIGHBOURS close to Moshimo are thought to be broadly behind the ambitious scheme.

Moshimo has consulted businesses in the area ahead of the planning application with groups like English Heritage thought to be in support of it.

Oli Hyde, manager of The Mesmerist, in Prince Albert Street, welcomed the plans.

He said: “I’m all for it. That square in the 1990s was plagued by failed business and Moshi is the only thing that’s really worked.

“They work really hard and do a lot for the city so I can see the development really working for them.”

Paul Nicholson, director of Chalk Architecture, which designed several Small Batch Coffee cafes, said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to see the application submission for the Moshimo Skylight.

“It’s a genuinely groundbreaking piece of architecture and an exemplar piece of place making, which Brighton needs more of.”

Consultant and developer Ed Allison-Wright said: “These are quite extraordinary proposals for the Old Town, likely to split opinions both ways.

“Perhaps the regeneration of the entire site might be worth revisiting simultaneously, given that the council has ultimate control as freeholder and long leaseholders would likely be open to commercial suggestions.”

The Argus: Conservation expert Roger Amerena, founder of the Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission

But conservation expert Roger Amerena, founder of the Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission, described the plans as “inappropriate” and “ugly”.

He said: “The development of Bartholomew Square was not well thought out, there should have been access to the seafront, and it was inappropriate particularly around the Town Hall.

“But the proposals to add a tower in addition are I believe out of character with the conservation area.

“Something more imaginative should be designed. I would say if they want modern architecture they should look to someone like Rem Koolhas (a Dutch architect).

“It is inappropriate, ugly and it breaks the symmetry of the buildings in the area.

“If it happens it will be the start of others.”

‘CITY SHOULD EMBRACE THIS’ Analysis by Finn Scott-Delany

BEFORE Moshimo arrived in 2000, Bartholomew Square was something of a business graveyard.

The 1980s brutalist concrete surroundings did not make for successful cafes in the original pavilion, with scores of failed attempts to make the site work.

It was only by totally reimagining the pavilion with a striking modern restaurant that Moshimo, originally Moshi Moshi, made the site a success.

Yet despite some 15 successful years, and various attempts to improve the square with installations and add-ons, the oppressive walls of concrete remain.

Co-owners Nicholas Röhl and Karl Jones have long considered ways to regenerate the site and Skylight is the culmination of some five years of ideas.

The ambitious and radical design, by architect Michael Spooner, overcomes the limitations of the drab square by reaching over it. The result is a unique pavilion poised on the rooftops which would boast views of the sea, city and South Downs.

And while the Skylight is a dramatic sight in the otherwise desolate square, painstaking work has gone into ensuring it is barely visible in the wider conservation area of The Lanes.

Brighton and Hove has scores of attractions which bring visitors to the city, most notably the piers, Royal Pavilion and The Lanes.

While the development may be controversial given its striking design, if Brighton and Hove City Council’s planning committee has the vision to approve it, Skylight could inspire the revamp of an unloved area of the Old Town.

With The Argus recently launching its Seafront 2020 campaign, a call for a long-term vision to improve the coastal region, this is exactly the type of forward-thinking idea the city should embrace.