Coldean may be part of the city of Brighton & Hove, but it is largely disconnected from the seaside prefecture. It’s an archetypal post war development – a self-contained peripheral estate, plugged into the cities main transport route.
The easiest and most myopic interpretation of Coldean, would be to dismiss it as another homogenous suburban development; a sprawling base for citizens to make petrol powered sorties into the city. There are no streets, monuments, squares or other buzzwords that match an atavistic view of urban life. Instead we have cul-de-sacs, underused public lawns and endless patchworks of elongated gardens.
Rather than condemn the suburb for failing to meet a half remembered vision of some halcyon urban dream, why not celebrate its oddities? A place where houses are used as giant maquette dolls, to be continuously restyled in their owner’s image. You could dismiss them as being dowdy and kitsch, but the ludic exuberance that they extrude, is far more engrossing than the mass-produced kitsch that defines polite architecture – the aesthetic of most modern housing. Here we have ad-hoc extensions with questionable legality, sitting awkwardly next to vernacular hybrids stretched to absurd frivolity. Celebrating the Coldean suburbs – for the assortment of reinterpretations offered by its indeterminacy and comparative wealth of land.
Recommendation: A dash of salt may be required for the emotive hyperbole
Did the owner(s) embark on a romantic journey to the Swiss Alps and decided to crystallize their experience in a piece of architecture? Does the house serve as a large semiotic trigger for voluntary excursions into past memories… or perhaps they just like the buildings in skiing magazines? Whatever the reasons for this unique import of style, it cannot be denied that the house is both thrilling and enticing in the way its irregular roof and ochre strips, sharply contrast with the floridity of its neighbours.
At the bottom of a sloped driveway resides a meagre looking extension featuring a single window and door, both adorned with white plastic decor. This façade is deceptive; a Potemkin guise to fool your wits. Entering the building we find ourselves on a concrete alley, adjoined by two rooms that quickly descends down to a glass conservatory. Leading off from this we find another room sunken into the embankment, with limited windows it is a sullen cave for monastic dwelling. An underappreciated art form – the condensing of students into a single abode.
The Cargo Cult Aesthetic
The mid section of this house has been removed and in its place a windowed cargo container has been inserted. A life-size game of cadavre exquis brought to a tangible conclusion. Apparently this may be a survivor from a far more optimistic, and in some ways more ingenious time. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you that most extraordinary of species – the prefabricated British house. Apparently this Coldean gem, dating from the late forties, was only meant to last for 15 years, but far from being a rusty anachronism, it is a cherished collectible.
This building is an emblem for the gay science of dormer and bay window installations. Like a sanded down slice of Ludwig’s II Neuschwanstein, it is has been bathed in a deluge of minute castle trimmings. The whole building is a cacophony of tiled slopes and oddly placed windows, resulting in this grand, lavish spectacle. Raised majestically above the road, it is connected by a spiral staircase to the lowly earthly domain.
Perched on the periphery of this peripheral development stands a strange object whose purpose is hard to describe. Does it serve as a lighting conductor? Maybe it is a redundant piece of electrical apparatus that has escaped the talons of the health and safety brigade? Its lack of easily perceivable purpose only suffices to make it more enduring, a giant enigmatic spike of metal hovering of the suburban landscape, like a metallic pagan guardian..
Elizabethan De Stijl
Here we observe the perhaps unwitting,but nonetheless charming blend of two chronologically opposed styles. On one side we have the influence of the wattle and timber Elizabethan house, favoured by the recently enriched merchants of the time, keen to display their prosperity. The other discernable characteristic seems to stem from the irregular grids and colours developed by the Dutch De Stijl movement. The two styles have been amalgamated to form this delightful crossbreed that adorns the properties frontal facade.
Stranded on top of this pyramidal mass, we find a suburban ark permanently docked amongst the irises and ivy vines.The aquatic aesthetic is enhanced via a strip of shuttered horizontal windows,a plasticised reference to the Villa Savoye and its cruise liner chic. The bulky dormer capped roof provides a counterpoint, a chance meeting between two cabins (marine and forest) played out on a suburban bank. Strange occurrences are plentiful in the suburban Sahara..
Research shows that this building was reportable once a Mormon church – a rare religious anomaly in the British suburban landscape. Now it appears to have been put to a far more secular use as a domestic domicile. Who knows what unique use the occupants have found for the tower, with its quirky pitched roof and curved ruddy walls? It could be a dream home for bird watchers, a perfect toy for wall climbers or on a more dubious level, a convenient pad for a suburban voyeur.