On my last trip to England, I spent a rainy Sunday traipsing around Sussex in the southeast of that country. In the mostly-Victorian (and slightly shabby) town of Bexhill-on-Sea, I came across an unexpected Art Deco jewel: the De la Warr Pavilion, built in 1935.
The building was commissioned as a contest by the Ninth Earl De la Warr as a focal point for his seaside holiday resort town. Among the Earl’s requirements: an aesthetically “light” building, avoiding heavy brick or stonework, lots of windows, a theatre for 1500, a restaurant for 200, a reading room and a lounge. Of the 230 submissions, the design by architects Erich Mendelssohn (from Germany) and Serge Chermayeff (from Russia) was selected and built within a year’s time.
The building is clearly Art Deco with a dash of the newly-emerging “International Style.” It boasts a streamlined, industrial aesthetic and uses concrete and steel (unlike the brick and stone of its Victorian Bexhill neighbors). While the building was promoted as the first Modernist building in Britain, it was more likely the second (after the Town Hall in Hornsey).
The building was pressed into service during World War II and was, indeed, a target of German bombers. While the hotel next door was flattened, the Pavilion escaped with minor structural damage. Worse damage was inflicted some decades later—when the Pavilion was subject to imprudent “additions and modifications” in the name of progress. Luckily, since then, the building has been protected from further abuse by “a Grade 1 listing”—the British equivalent of protected landmark status. Today, the De la Warr Pavilion is used as an arts and cultural center (centre).
The Belgian Art Deco vases, shown above, remind me very much of my time in the De la Warr Pavilion. The streamlined Deco combined with stylized “waves” and turquoise glazing bring me back to that rainy day at seaside. We found the first some months ago and discovered the second just this week. While they make a nice pair, I will continue to sell them individually. Please click on the photo above to learn more about the vase.