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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

East Beach Cafe, Littlehampton, United Kingdom

As living proof that size doesn’t matter, this tiny cafe has been featured in just about every design magazine in print, ensuring the catering staff are worked off their feet...

Thomas Heatherwick had previously created the innovative rolling bridge in London’s Paddington Basin, see thumbnail.


The East Beach Café is a long, south facing single storey building of shallow depth. The slim footprint was developed from the constraints of the public promenade at the front and a pressurised underground service pipe at the rear which could not be built over. The shell of the building is both its skin and the structure. It comprises a steel outer layer which is cut into a series of vertical slices.

The complex contours of the rear of the building have a powerful sculptural quality, the intensity of detail and shadow changing with every nuance of light and sun.

The replacement for the demolished kiosk, which provides take away food for consumption on the beach, is situated at the west end of the building looking towards the town.

The eastern frontage, which greets those driving into the car park that backs on to the building, is perhaps the most dramatic, it defines the section of the complex structure and leads the visitor toward the sea-facing southern frontage. Here windows stretch the full lengths of the café space providing splendid views over the shingle and sand beach to the sea.

Decking on the beach allows diners to eat outdoors, with a clear screen offering protection from the wind.

When closed the building is protected from flying shingle and vandalism by a series of steel shutters. The boxes which contain the rolled shutters defined the size of the steel strips which make up the monocoque structure.

Inside, the steel is sprayed directly with polyurethane foam over 150mm deep so that the form of the external structure is reflected internally. The foam softens the contour edges creating a comfortable interior space. The foam is plastered at lower levels for protection.
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