Littlehampton’s East Beach used to be home to a standard seaside cafe. Brick built and serving tea out of polystyrene cups who would have thought that around 2005 it would start to metamorphose into one of the most striking seaside buildings of recent years. Construction itself caused quite a stir with a constant queue of day trippers straining to read the planning permission notices whilst trying to visualise the architect drawings coming to life in Littlehampton.
The designer Thomas Heatherwick has previously been involved in other high profile projects such as the B Of The Bang in Manchester and a unusual rolling bridge in Paddington Basin. His vision for the East Beach Cafe was for a building that provided a ‘prospect and a refuge’. It has fully delivered on both fronts providing stunning views out to sea and a warm and cosy place to eat that is protected from the elements when the weather changes for the worse.
Heatherwick studios and the owners have succeeded in transforming the site from an exposed seaside hut into a restaurant that can operate whatever the weather. It may look like the traditional seaside day tripper has been been priced out of the market but it’s still possible to buy a cup of tea to take away at a reasonable price – something the owners were keen to retain despite the fact the cafe now also has Dom Perignon champagne on the list.
The mild steel construction of the building is more akin to boat building and was carried out by local firm Littlehampton Welding. Once the structure was in place it was allowed to weather giving it the appearance of an object that has washed up on the beach. With the weathering process complete it was sealed with a oil based coating to preserve it’s appearance.
Seen from the back the cafe seems both strangely fitting in its location while at the same strikingly modern. It certainly created quite a stir in what was before a pleasant but relatively unremarkable part of the South Coast.
The design blends in well with the seaside location with the low profile of the building allowing views out to sea to remain unaffected.
You can find out more about the East Beach Cafe and view menus and opening times on their website here.
You can also find out more about the construction of the East Beach Cafe on the Heatherwick Studios website.