Inspiration – Bruno Stagno

Bruno Stagno is an architect from Costa Rica who designs for the tropics.

The use of climbing plants for bio-shading (creating cooler buildings and outdoor spaces) is known in this country too – but these are stunning examples.

He said he enjoys living “in close contact with the exterior environment and enjoy the sensation of openness and connection to nature this brings.”

JYR Building. Climbing plants on frames

Tribu office pergola. Solar shading using climbing plants and frames

Building Green tour of Brighton & Hove

The second day of our DIY Green Roof workshop involved a tour of some inspirational buildings in Brighton & Hove.

First was the Velo Cafe, with a green roof fitted by Organic Roofs. Lee Evans talked the group through the trials and tribulations of green roofing on a pitched slope. The roof now looks great, and we spotted a female grey wagtail feeding on it.

Building Green DIY Green Roof workshoppers taking a tour of the Velo Cafe, Brighton

Building Green DIY Green Roof workshoppers taking a tour of the Velo Cafe, Brighton

Grey wagtail on the roof of the Velo Cafe, Brighton

Grey wagtail on the roof of the Velo Cafe, Brighton

Building Green DIY Green Roof workshoppers taking a tour of the Velo Cafe, Brighton

Building Green DIY Green Roof workshoppers taking a tour of the Velo Cafe, Brighton

We visited Madeira Drive to see the ‘world famous sheltered walk’ and the green wall. Great inspiration for greening the other 4 building surfaces – which are often forgotten amongst all the talk of roofs! This was the first guided visit to the Madeira Drive Green Wall, and Building Green highlighted the threats and opportunities for its continued conservation.

Building Green DIY Green Roof workshop crew hearing about the special green wall at Madeira Drive, Brighton

Building Green DIY Green Roof workshop crew hearing about the special green wall at Madeira Drive, Brighton

Finally we went to Whitehawk to see the great wildflower roof at the Crew Club. Unfortunately the roofs on the Children’s Centre and library are faring less well – much of the planting has died and the roofs should really be refurbished. Still, it’s a hotspot for green roofing and green building – nearby houses are making their own contribution too, as this well managed ivy attests.

The 'chalk downland' green roofs of the Crew Club community centre, Whitehawk, Brighton

The ‘chalk downland’ green roofs of the Crew Club community centre, Whitehawk, Brighton

Whitehawk home - carefully grown and tended ivy as a home for wildlife and attractive front garden. Brighton

Whitehawk home – carefully grown and tended ivy as a home for wildlife and attractive front garden. Brighton

All in all a great weekend – new friendships, new networks, and some new neural pathways from all this learning!

New ideas for Madeira Drive

Urban designer Michael Doyle has produced these ideas for a new-look Madeira Drive.

Based on designs published in the Argus in September, these new ideas incorporate the environmental infrastructure that is such an important part of our seafront.

Michael is a local resident who runs an independent town planning and urban design practice. Building Green has met Michael to share ideas.

In one design, photovoltaics could be mounted on the existing ironwork to provide some economic benefit and green electricity whilst longer term solutions are found.

In another, cafes and shops could be assembled as pods that sit outside the terrace at first – providing business space now – and wheeled back under the terrace like Victorian bathing machines if and when a safe, longer term solution is found.

The Council are in private talks over the future of the Madeira terraces, which are currently closed due to the deterioration of the antique Victorian ironwork. Ideas like those of Michael Doyle Building Green and the wider community should be heard as part of a wider debate and search for economic, sustainable solutions.

Building Green is highlighting the importance of the living ‘green wall’, which pre-dates the terraces and is notable for its age, uniqueness in the UK, its wildlife value and for improving the appearance of the East cliff. We are working with the Council to actively manage the only stretch of green wall that is currently accessible – which runs East along the ramp from Peter Pan to the top of Marine Parade.

In the words of Council Leader Warren Morgan, “…we owe it to those who built our city’s heritage, and future generations, to save what we value in our historic city and add to the story of Brighton and Hove for the future.”.

Restored terrace with cafe and shop pods underneath - like Victoria bathing machines these could be established in a space in front of the terraces to be used before the structure is made safe, and wheeled under the arches in due course

Restored terrace with cafe and shop pods underneath – like Victoria bathing machines these could be established in a space in front of the terraces to be used before the structure is made safe, and wheeled under the arches in due course

Photovoltaics could be established on the terraces where not safe to walk on. This can provide green electricity and some economic benefits, as well as a working platform for green wall maintenance.

Photovoltaics could be established on the terraces where not safe to walk on. This can provide green electricity and some economic benefits, as well as a working platform for green wall maintenance.

A striking way of visualising the environmental infrastructure in East Brighton. Connecting the downs to the sea via the squares, green wall and streets. Supporting wildlife and reducing surface water flood risk

A striking way of visualising the environmental infrastructure in East Brighton. Connecting the downs to the sea via the squares, green wall and streets. Supporting wildlife and reducing surface water flood risk.

Madeira Drive A5 leaflet Building Green 1509

Building Green image of green wall

Madeira Drive green wall, Brighton

Brighton carnival in front of Madeira Drive green wall. Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Brighton carnival in front of Madeira Drive green wall. Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

The benefits of green walls

Why plant or protect green walls? What’s the point of them?

There have been good studies on this, focused on green walls for buildings. These have put pound (or dollar) signs on costs of establishment and maintenance, and benefits including:

  • increased property value (akin to planting street trees)
  • insulating buildings to reduce air conditioning costs in hot climates
  • acoustic benefit where the covering is thick
  • improving biodiversity
  • improving air quality by trapping dust particles
  • reducing the frequency of building facade maintenance
  • air temperature reduction (urban ‘heat island’)

This study concluded that ‘direct green facades’ – ie climbing plants established onto a building surface – are the most sustainable green wall type, and have a very positive net present value.

Westergate Business Park

There are lots of places in Brighton where this applies – around New England for example, Westergate, American Express, and so on.

For Madeira Drive, our most famous green wall, things are a little different. However, the benefits include:

  • green space for relaxation in a community where the vast majority have no garden, balcony or other outside space
  • a habitat for wildlife – 100 species of plants, birds, butterflies
  • a national arboretum for Japanese spindle, and place to learn how to prune, coppice and manage it
  • a place to study Victorian environmental engineering
  • a green lung in an otherwise sparsely vegetated area – trapping dust
  • a more attractive covering for a rendered cliff face that is so much better visually than sprayed concrete
  • a protective coating for the cliff face – limiting damage and deterioration from wind, rain and cold.
  • a place for volunteers to get active and health
  • a backdrop for TV, film, photo shoots and show piece for Brighton & Hove.

It would be useful to do some economics on this – anyone out there with the requisite skills?

Madeira Drive Green Wall – our living Victorian history

Plenty of news about the Madeira Terraces this week, especially a potential bid for UNESCO World Heritage Site Status. But little mention of the integral, living parts of seafront history.

Argus – Rich film heritage

Argus – Minsters invited to Madeira Drive

Argus – World heritage sites well worth applying for

You can download a leaflet here about the Madeira Drive Green Wall.

Madeira Drive A5 leaflet Building Green 1509

Building Green is interested in working with the Victorian Society, Regency Society, Brighton & Hove Heritage Commission and others on the future of Madeira Drive. We want to ensure that the living history is protected and conserved as part of any plans for the restoration, refurbishment or development of Madeira Drive.

A letter to Simon Kirby MP received the following response (11 September 2015):

"Please be assured that the future of Madeira Drive is an issue I am continuing to work hard on and I will certainly keep your comments in mind. I have recently invited the Coastal Communities Minister to the Terraces to discuss the situation and to see what Government funding may be available."

Building Green counted well over 100 mature spindle trees on the green wall last week – each over 130 years old. 100 plant species have been found in total, and the wall will become the first statutory local wildlife site of it’s kind in the UK when the Council adopt part 2 of the City Plan soon.

Madeira Drive Green Wall sign on the ramp to Marine Parade

Madeira Drive Green Wall sign on the ramp to Marine Parade

Check out Building Green’s timeline for Madeira Drive through history.

Building Green at Big Nature

Big Nature is a free event to encourage awareness and involvement in the natural environment.

Building Green will be there to promote green roofs and living walls for nature in the city. We will be running activities for kids, providing free advice, and talking about how to DIY your own shed green roof.

We’ll also be raising awareness of the importance of our existing environment in the city, including the historic and unique Madeira Drive Green Wall.

Download the new Madeira Drive Green Wall leaflet here.

Madeira Drive A5 leaflet Building Green 1509

Wallflower, Madeira Drive green wall, Brighton

Wallflower, Madeira Drive green wall, Brighton

Big Nature in the Biosphere, Sat 3rd October, 1 to 4 pm, The Foyer, The Brighton Centre

Big Nature in the Biosphere is an interactive event aimed at all ages where you can see what wildlife a pond in your back garden could attract or learn how to make your very own butterfly haven on your front lawn or garage roof. The event will be promoting the great work people are doing within our community and you can find out how to join a group caring for local wildlife reserve near you or how to do it for yourself in your own back garden. 

Get it right first time!

The new Amex building was opened to great fanfare in 2012.

Built by Robert McAlpine and designed by EPR Architects and claimed big sustainability credentials.

Many of these are undoubtedly worthwhile (the result was a BREEAM Very Good), but the biodiversity features are, sadly, dead.

‘Green walls’ at the back of the building were tokenistic pre-grown ivy stands and have all withered and died, possibly due to a lack of irrigation. Judging by the aerial views you can glimpse if you watch ITV’s new police documentary ‘The Nick’, the small green roof has also died or is dying.

Amex green walls have died

Amex green walls have died

Meanwhile the green wall planted by the Victorians at Madeira Drive is still thriving at 130 years old, and the Crew Club green roof is going strong at over 10 years old.

All of this points to the value of a good specification, clear planning conditions, no skimping on the budget, and a maintenance programme. The green roof won’t be visible to many, but the walls now let down the corporate image and will surely need replacing.

Perhaps American Express could get in touch with Building Green for advice?

Background: UK Green Building Council citation on the building contained this statement:

Biodiversity: Green roofs and living walls are located in a number of locations, some of which were a request by the planners, and these include green walls which can be easily seen from street level. The roof areas include 15 bird boxes in specific locations. 20 new semi-mature trees have been planted within the site and neighbouring school grounds as part of an improved biodiversity and ecological target. The site prior to the building works contained at grade car parking and two small scale buildings, and an ecological survey found no presence of bats or other protected species. Monitoring will be carried out by the FM team once in full occupation.

Timeline – Madeira Drive through history

A timeline of the major events in the development of Brighton’s seafront – specifically, Madeira Drive in Kemptown.

Note there is now a separate page on Madeira Drive on this website with photos and a longer history.

I’d welcome corrections, additions and comments. A book is a future possibility!

827 Sussex annexed by Kingdom of Wessex. ‘Beorhthelm’s Farm’ recorded, and was a landing place for boats with villagers and smallholders.

1086 Domesday book records Bristelmestune, a settlement of three manors on the modern site of Brighton
1290 – 1340 40 acres of ‘lower town’ old fishing village lost to sea level rise
1640s Sea level rise threatens fishing village on cliffs above foreshore
1514 Fishing village Brighthelmstone burned to ground by French
1703 – 1703 Great storms destroy Brighton lower town and most of foreshore. Cliffs along Brighton are composed of ‘Head’ (or ‘Coombe’) drift, an easily eroded deposit of chalk rubble and flint with a proportion of clay and sand. In front of the Old Town the cliffs were known as Middle Street Cliff, Ship Street Cliff, Black Lion Street Cliff and the East Cliff, and were separated by gaps with steep paths to the beach which people used to carry goods. Below the cliffs was the foreshore, a mixture of sand, shingle and chalk reef of the kind that can now be seen below the undercliff walk between the Marina and Rottingdean at low tide.
1713 – 1722 Town collects funding from churches for sea defences

1723 First sea defences – groynes – raised from these ‘Church Briefs’ taxes. 2 wooden defences in the old town. At £8000 considered by Daniel Defoe to be ‘more than the whole town was worth’.

1773 Brighton Town Act establishes coal tax for ‘building and repairing groyns, to render the coast safe and commodious’. Coal tax continues to 1887.

1780 Georgian Brighton begins from fishing village

1795 Sea wall at Old Steine, built by proprietors of New Steine and East Cliff residents, is a simple flint structure

1808 4 groynes below East Cliff

1823 Royal Suspension Chain Pier built by Captain Samuel Brown, starting 1822 and opening 25 November 1823. Cost £30,000. Embarkation point for cross-channel ferries.

Work starts on Kemp Town estate

1824 First Brighton lifeboat established at Chain Pier. The toll-house was destroyed in a storm on 24 November.

1827-1838 Cement facing on the East Cliff. £100k for 2 miles. Rubble mounds to enhance sea defence which was extended between Old Steine and Royal Cresent in 1830-3. The sea defence was 23 feet thick at the base.

1833 and 1836 Chain Pier damaged by storms but repaired and re-opened.

1851 Magnus Volk, son of clockmaker, born on Western Road

1855 Kemp Town estate completed

1867 First concrete groyne at East Street

1870 A new sea wall faced with stone from the first Blackfriars Bridge in London, demolished in 1863. Madeira Road laid out on the sea wall, using rubble from the old sea defences.

1872 The Aquarium opens. Designed by Eugenius Birch and built in 1869-1872, with extensions in 1874-1876. The exterior was rebuilt in 1927-1929 by David Edwards, the Brighton borough engineer.

1877 Banjo ‘promenade’ groyne built (officially Paston Place Groyne). 270 feet long with 3 feet wide walls.

1870 – 1882 Planting of Japanese spindle and ivy along Maderia Road, including along the bottom of the East Cliff (the ‘green wall’), begins in this period. This was established at regularly spaced intervals, and trained with guide wires to grow up the cliff. The ‘green wall’ made the otherwise barren promenade a more attractive place to be, and a natural backdrop for riders on the future Volks Electric railway.

1880 Wooden railings on the cliff top replaced with cast iron railings present today.

1882 Confirmed record of Japanese Spindle planting (Notes from J.R.B. Evison’s 1969 book ‘Gardening By the Sea’ records ‘Japanese Privet’ planted on the cliff face. Evison was Director of Parks at Brighton 1951 onwards. Evison notes ‘I have only seen it [flowering] on the cliff face at Brighton where plants set out in 1882 are some 60ft high…’). Hedges and lawns are present along the Madeira Terrace.

1883 Volks Electric railway opens, running from the swimming arch near the Aquarium to the Chain Pier.

1884 Madeira Lawns laid out, thanks to the acres of land reclaimed by Banjo Groyne, to provide additional recreational space and a more attractive seafront.

1890 Under the Brighton Improvement Act of 1884, Madeira Terrace [sheltered walk or ‘Colonnade’ and ‘Max’s Walk’], Madeira lift and shelter hall [now Concorde 2] were built. Terrace designed by borough surveyor Phillip Causton Lockwood, who also designed the Brighton ‘birdcage’ Bandstand which was built in 1884. In total 2,837 feet (864.7m) long. The shelter hall was designed as a cafe and waiting room.
…each bay of the entirely cast-iron arcade has an identical elevation: round arches carried on single columns of a fanciful marine order; scalloped-arch intrados; spandrels formed by concentric rings of quatrefoils, forming a pierced sun screen; keystone cast to resemble either a female or a bearded male deity, perhaps Venus and Neptune.” (From English Heritage listing)
The terraces were also designed with a gap to allow the Japanese spindle plants to continue their climb up the cliff face. Seating was designed on the upper terrace, to sit proud of the ‘green wall’. The shelter hall lift was originally powered by water pressure, with the current electro-mechanical lifting mechanism fitted in 1930. The western terrace was added later.

1891 The Palace Pier construction begins. Designed by R St George Moore. A funding crisis caused a halt in construction, which was completed by Sir John Howard in 1901

1894 Construction of Magnus Volks’ Daddy Long Legs track begins by British Thomson-Houston Co. Ltd. 2.8 miles from Banjo Groyne to Rottingdean.

1896 Daddy Long legs railway car ‘Pioneer’ opens 28 November. Tram by the Gloucester Railway Carriage & Wagon Company. Described as a mix between an ‘open-top tramcar, a pleasure yacht and a seaside pier’ for 160 passengers. Deck fitted out with an ornate saloon (complete with leather upholstered seats and exotic palms), promenade deck on top. Helmed by law by a sea Captain. 35 minute journey at 21/2d each way.

First London to Brighton horseless carriage run (the Veteran Car Rally) to celebrate lifting of law requiring man to walk in front of ‘car’ with red flag. Won by a steam car.

Chain Pier destroyed by December storm, Daddy Long Legs badly damaged just a week after opening.

1897 Daddy Long Legs repaired, and re-built with 2ft longer legs. Re-opens in July. Carries 44,282 passengers in the year.

1899 Palace Pier opens in May.

1900 New groynes constructed East of Banjo cause scouring of Daddy Long Legs track bed, and new sea defences would have required moving the line.

1901 Brighton Corporation removes part of track obstructing sea defence works. Line closes, ‘Pioneer’ left to rot at Ovindean pier until 1910, when remainder sold for scrap.

1902 Electric railway extended to Rottingdean, with viaduct

1905 First ‘Motor Race Week’, for which Madeira Road was tarmac’d. Led to annual National Speed Trials, every September since.

1909 Madeira Road renamed Madeira Drive

1936 Black Rock Lido opens

1937 Magnus Volk dies, railway operation passes to Brighton Corporation

1940 Beaches closed in July, protected with mines and barbed wire, and reponed July 1945

1948 Restored track and railway reopened. Carries 1 million passengers a year.

1952 Brighton Corporation open Esplanade and slopes [Duke’s Mound] to public

1971 – 1979 Brighton Marina constructed. Madeira Terraces, walk and lift (‘Arcade with raised walkway, associated buildings and lift tower’) listed by English Heritage in 1971.

1978 Black Rock Lido closes

2000 Concorde 2 opens in the shelter hall.

2009 Madeira lift re-opens following restoration started in 2007.

2013 Madeira Drive Green Wall surveyed, and its value for wildlife identified. First survey shows 69 plants, later further plants are added to the list, making the total 100 species. Candidate local wildlife site in City Plan (to be adopted).

2014 First restoration works at Madeira Drive Green Wall by B&HCC, Brighton & Hove Building Green and Ecology Consultancy. Madeira Drive and the green wall feature at the first International Green Wall Conference.

2015 Marine Drive Terraces are closed to the public due to concerns over the safety of the structure. Management of the green wall by partnership of Building Green and B&HCC continues on the ramp between Madeira Drive and eastern Marine Parade. The first new ideas for the future of Madeira Terraces are drawn up by local planner Michael Doyle, and discussed  in private talks between developers and the Council.

201? Madeira Drive Green Wall adopted as statutory Site of Importance for Nature Conservation in the Brighton & Hove City Plan.

References

https://oldbike.wordpress.com/1896-crypto-bantam/

http://www.urban75.org/railway/brighton-sea-railway.html

http://publicdomainreview.org/collections/the-daddy-long-legs-of-brighton/

http://volkselectricrailway.co.uk/history/the-daddy-long-legs/

http://www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk/page_id__7936_path__0p115p207p1487p.aspx

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Brighton

http://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1381696

http://www.brightonhistory.org.uk/laws/brighton_laws_town.html

https://www.architecture.com/FindAnArchitect/ArchitectPractices/ABIRArchitects/Projects/Brighton39;Birdcage39;Bandstand.aspx