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New edition of Pevsner’s Sussex launched on campus

Nearly 50 years after it first came out, the revised Sussex edition of a renowned series of architectural guides is about to be published – with Falmer House on the front cover.

Architects and architectural historians gathered in the Meeting House on campus on Thursday (23 May) to celebrate the publication by Yale University Press of the new Sussex: East edition of the Buildings of England series.

The Sussex volume of Sir Nikolaus Pevsner's comprehensive and authoritative 46-volume series was first published in 1965.

Each book in the series contains an introduction to the architectural history and styles of the area, followed by a town-by-town account of notable buildings (with particular emphasis on churches and public buildings) and notes on lesser-known and vernacular buildings.

Most of the original volumes have taken a long time to be revised as the work takes several years by a small, dedicated team, with one or two regional specialists for each volume.

In 2008 the University of Sussex campus architecture did feature in a series of Pevsner City Guides on Brighton and Hove, in an illustrated paperback format.

The co-author of that volume was Nicholas Antram, who went on to write the long-awaited second edition – all 800 pages of it – of the revised Buildings of England series on Sussex.

Sussex: East covers an area ranging from the High Weald in the north to the ridge of the South Downs and the resort towns and ancient ports of the coast.

It includes seven pages on the “uncompromising” 1960s Sussex architecture by Sir Basil Spence – the subject of an exhibition on campus in 2012.

“The campus has worn well,” writes Antram, who is sensitive to the original, listed Spence buildings and those of the later, evolving campus.

“There is a carefully controlled relationship between landscape and buildings, sometimes formal, sometimes informal, the established park and Downland setting omnipresent …

“The buildings are remarkably homogeneous, their leitmotifs being heavy, chunky slabs of in situ cast concrete vaults, often used as bands, contrasted against the red brick walls …

“Roman indeed seems the epic monumentality of the Sussex buildings with their rhythmic arches and grand exterior staircases, even if that formality is softened by the materials and the asymmetrical layout.”

The campus tour of individual buildings begins with Falmer House, the first 1960s building in the country to be given Grade I listed status by English Heritage.

Pevensey 1 is described as “high drama”, the Chichester Lecture Theatre as an “awesomely plain brick drum” and the Library as a “rather brooding presence”.

Swanborough, meanwhile, is “unassuming", and East Slope consists of 13 “troglodytic blocks stepped up the hillside”.

Speaking ahead of the book’s launch, University of Sussex art historian Professor Maurice Howard, who was the first person to initiate a revised version with a conference way back in 1997, said: “It's a great day for all of us who care about the university buildings.”

  • Sussex: East with Brighton and Hove by Nicholas Antram and Nikolaus Pevsner is published on 19 June, at £35.

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Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Friday, 24 May 2013

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