‘What Unearthed?, a geometric beach hut on Eastbourne seafront, has been completed by Irish architect Stephen Foley following an international competition. Inspired by recent local archaeological discoveries, the hut is sitedon Seafront Walk, which leads to Beachy Head where the remains of a young woman dating from 245AD were found. Analysis suggests that she was of Sub-Saharan origin, and therefore among the first immigrants from southern Africa to reach UK shores. The story manifests itself, according to Foley, in the faceted form of translucent Corian Panels between the boardwalk and the beach.
To help deliver the project on the low budget an innovative system of structural nodes was developed with a local Corian fabricator. Each bespoke node was made by connecting aluminium rods to aluminium hemispheres using digital fabrication tools. A 3d-model was used to export coordinates for each hemisphere, which were screwed together to form the dome structure. The Corian panels sit on CNC-cut timber triangles made rigid by the lightweight dome.
Foley says “the project combines themes in our design research such as identity, technology and collaboration. We worked closely with fabricator Kevin Hoy of Cutting Edge to make it as special as possible. It does a lot with very little, responding to the site and brief in a monumental way but also to the budget in terms of being innovative with materials and structure.”
The beach hut, offering pop-up events and available for hire, will be joined by a second structure in September. Five huts will eventually form part of the Coastal Culture Trail that links the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne, De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill and Jerwood Gallery in Hastings. Part of the Driving Devonshire Forward initiative and funded by the Coastal Communities Fund, The Huts project aims to contribute to Eastbourne’s regeneration and enhance its cultural offering. The competition judges included architect Jane Montague and artist Alex Chinneck.
The winning designs, including Stephen Foley and Dublin-based SFA’s ghost-like structure What Unearthed? (3), are by Jacob Low and JaK Studio’s Spyglass (2), George King from London and Melbourne-based George King Architects for Star Gazers’ Cabin (5) and Ewen Miller and Kim Smith of Calder Peel for the Eastbourne Re-Bourne (1).