Embassy Court, Brighton

Standing on King's Road on Brighton seafront Embassy Court is a fine example of Modernist architecture. Designed by the architect Wells Coates (1895 - 1958), Embassy Court was built between 1934 and 1936. Coates was a designer and architect and was responsible for many fine Modernist buildings in Britain, including the Isokon building in London and the Telekinema for the 1951 Festival of Britain.

Even today Embassy Court provides a striking architectural contrast to the surrounding Regency and Victorian-style buildings on Brighton and Hove's seafront. When built in the mid-1930s its appearance must have been even more radical. However, the scale of the building is better judged in comparison to nearby Marine Court in St Leonard's on Sea, a building that completely dominates its surroundings.

The footprint of Embassy Court forms a mirror 'L'-shape on King's Road and Western Street in Brighton. Constructed of rendered, reinforced concrete the building comprises twelve storeys including its basement structure. Embassy Court contains 72 separate apartments, spread across its eleven principal storeys. The main block comprises the first eight storeys. The south-east corner of the building features a curved bay of windows. Each of the first eight storeys has glazed bays with recessed balconies, with adjacent balconies separated by screens. From the ninth floor upwards the remaining three storeys are set back successively providing sun terraces for the apartments, with a final twelfth storey featuring a canopied-roof and sun terrace.

The main entrance is on King's Road via a glazed entrance set beneath a cantilevered canopy roof, with two smaller side entrance doors on Western Road. The rear of the building, accessible down via a ramp, provides additional access to the building via two external staircases and a single central lift-shaft on the Western Road wing. The rear facade of the building feature open balconies and stairwells and is particularly striking; its design is far more daring than the front facade and is almost a precursor to later post-war Brutalist architecture.

From the 1980s and for much of the following two decades the condition of the building began to deteriorate. The effects of the weather and the corrosive action of the salt air had significant consequences for the structure of the building. All the time, a series of successive landlords failed to maintain the building. The situation was finally resolved in the courts, with a settlement in favour of a new company.

A £5 million restoration programme was undertaken, with extensive renovation of the building. Externally, the concrete structure was repaired and repainted, the building was entirely reglazed and the glazed entrance and signage restored to its original design. Internally, services and lifts were upgraded and replaced. The restoration has returned Embassy Court to a semblance of how she original appeared; as the building remained occupied during the works the restoration focussed on the building's exterior and public areas, while the interiors of the majority of the apartments still reflect the changes of successive occupiers over time.

The building was awarded Grade II*-listed status on 19 July 1984.

This is an updated and revised building profile first published on 20 September 2009.

References

A celebration of Modernist architecture in Britain