A glass palace designed by the architect behind London's famous Gherkin building will replace the Brighton Centre, The Argus can exclusively reveal today.

Make Architects has been handed the £250 million job of transforming the ageing conference centre, Churchill Square and the Kingswest building.

The building would be a landmark in the city, opening up views from Churchill Square to the seafront.

An official announcement is not expected for months but The Argus has learned that the London architects, fronted by Ken Shuttleworth, has already produced plans for the city's most lucrative asset.

During his time as a senior architect at Lord Norman Foster's firm, Mr Shuttleworth played a key role in designing landmark London buildings including City Hall, near Tower Bridge, 30 St Mary Axe, dubbed The Gherkin, and the arches of the new Wembley Stadium.

He has been described by Sir Stuart Lipton, chairman of the Government's Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, as one of the UK's best hidden talents.

Make was founded in 2004 and has already been involved in a string of international projects, creating awe-inspiring designs like the 250-metre Stellar Tower in Abu Dhabi.

The Brighton Centre redevelopment will feature a high-tech, luxurious complex including a hotel, conference centre and a department store.

Covering 25,000 square metres, the centre will aim to attract the biggest names in business and high-spending organisations, catering for conferences of up to 1,500 delegates. A four or five-star hotel with more than 300 rooms is planned, as well as an extension to the Churchill Square shopping centre.

It is the Brighton Centre's 30th birthday this year and in recent years it has lost ground to bigger and more modern venues across the country, leading to a downturn in business for hotels, especially in midweek.

For the past decade, the council has pursued a number of failed projects but it now hopes to have the new centre open by 2012.

Council leader Councillor Simon Burgess said: "I cannot comment on whether Standard Life, the landowner, has made an appointment.

"But we are confident that a world class architect will want to design the new Brighton Centre.

"And because we are looking to bring together the Brighton Centre, the Kingswest Building and Churchill Square, there is real scope for creating a landmark building."

Labour, Conservatives, Greens and the Lib Dems have all pledged to redevelop the Brighton Centre as a priority.

A council spokesperson said: "Redeveloping the Brighton Centre is one of our top priorities, and an awful lot of work is going on behind the scenes with a wide range of developers and other interested parties.

"We are not in a position to confirm or announce anything at this stage regarding our proposals for the redevelopment, but hope to do so in the near future.

Make Architects and Standard Life declined to comment.

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