Design Brighton: Creating a vision for the city of tomorrow

Celebrating a rich local creative pedigree, Design Brighton brings three days of events to a regenerated Corn Exchange in October. It offers the chance for architects, designers, makers and laymen to play with how the city perceives itself, outline the challenges it faces and imagine future solutions.

Its organisers wanted to do something which further established the city’s global reputation as a design rich community. Through a series of not-for-profit events, like workshop tours, guided urban walks, inspiring talks, exhibitions and networking opportunities, they’ll create a collaborative network and address some local issues. “It’s to differentiate Brighton from London, just as San Francisco is different from New York,” the festival’s co-founder John Cowell, tells me. “A visitor to these cities would find totally different things. Different styles of living, architecture and ways of thinking.” Now, Design Brighton gives the local creative industry chances to place a unifying stamp on what it does and how it thinks.

Brighton & Hove is considered a difficult landscape to develop on. Confined by the sea to the south and a national park to the north, it has complex infrastructure (above and below ground) and a huge number of listed buildings to consider. These challenges force local designers to be more aware of their environment, arguably more than any city outside of London. Decisions made at this level impact on people’s lives and the legacy of areas around new buildings. Design shapes society. “Take Kings Cross in London, the developers have gone out of their way to ensure what they put in doesn’t just steam-roll over the heritage and community nearby. Places like the Coal Yard, around St Martin’s School of Art and along the canal, it’s first class architecture with a community usage, which is why people flock there in their thousands. Where in Covent Garden and Soho, developers are taking the heart out of it.” The capital’s reputation as a business centre means high demand for development, but this can often cause it to overshadow its south coast cousin, as well as draining both work and talent away.

Design Brighton’s foundations stem from a random conversation. Cowell met Sophie and Richard from architecture practice Stickland Wright, which was being restructured. This prompted a discussion on how architects attracted new business – a process reliant on public profiles. “We also started talking about how Brighton had a problem. London-based developers were coming down with their own teams and ignoring the talent already here, and schemes not really being for Brightonians.” There’s increasing demand in Brighton for commercial and living space. There’s additionally desire innovation with new spaces, but the tendency is for buildings which are distinctly less interesting and useful than what a modernising, vibrant city should be building.Design-Brighton

While Brighton & Hove City Council are working to satisfy community demand, adapting planning processes to meet emerging challenges, the most influential voice in a changing cityscape is the population themselves. Demand is increasing for public space, better accommodation, start-up spaces, affordable artist studios and faster transport links, but conventional means are struggling to meet this. Design Brighton will spend much of its time demonstrating to all how needs can be met imaginatively without ruing areas. “It’s trying to imagine a city which is built by the community, for the community, instead of wearing blinkers and doing nothing.” Enormous areas of Britain are undergoing development and regeneration, to meet evolving requirements. Corporate structures and business models have shifted greatly in recent years. Companies are increasingly mobile, while regulations make it’s extremely difficult to lease energy-inefficient commercial buildings. Retrofitting these is hugely expensive, so the tendency is to replace them entirely. Funding, usage and technology also play parts in the turnover of huge swathes of modern European cities.

The work of Design Brighton is not solely focused on October’s event either, the aim is to develop year-round engagement with the local architecture and design community. They’ve support from Brighton and Hove Council, Royal Institute of British Architects, the University of Brighton and a wide range of local businesses. The three-day event in October will look at the city’s past and how it evolved, talk about problems and opportunities, and imagine what Brighton & Hove could be in the future. What might happen. Many urban planning needs won’t simply evaporate, so sensitive and engaging development is vital. Local designers are aware of this challenging and unique environment and determined to deliver exceptional responses where possible. The aim is to light a beacon, ensuring the city can be understood for the unique way it comes together. “It’s not just London-on-Sea, or a fading hippy place or just all about Pride. It’s got a vibrancy and energy that deserves to be recognised.”

For more details on Design Brighton, visit:

DESIGN BRIGHTON coming in April 2020

  • Based around a newly refurbished Corn Exchange
  • Interactive workshops, panels, exhibition spaces and conferences
  • Celebrating revolutionary urban design
  • Exploring Brighton’s evolution – its origins, ground-breaking local projects and opportunities of the future
  • Inspiring others to collaborate on innovative and unique projects Cementing the City’s reputation as a fantastic place to invest, live, learn, work, stay and succeed.


  • Sponsorship and membership opportunities to bring experts, enthusiasts and businesses together
  • Unique networking and business opportunities within the region.
  • A chance to influence local, regional and national policy by interacting with local authorities, LEP’s and other key stakeholders Design round table events on key city sites for the council and private developers
  • Members only networking events
  • Discounts across the city on venues, hotels and restaurants for client hospitality
  • Project and service listings on Brighton Design Wall website and yearlong advertisement opportunities and benefits and focused marketing prospects within the October festival.

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