The artist’s impression and bijou model of the tiered development show identical cubical units with whitewashed walls and lush vegetation cascading over balconies and each as perfect as the condominium equivalent of a coterie of Stepford wives – and about as interesting.
The first fleeting impression that momentarily brought to mind a similarity with cave-dwellings – as found in such stunning locations as Mesa Verde National Park in the United States or Matera’s Sassi in Italy – rapidly evaporates in a puff of artist’s chalk.
No doubt this development will, for those who frequent such climes, rekindle memories of idyllic summer breaks wiled away on Greek Islands, on the Amalfi coast, in some Spanish Costa or Iberian golf resort – which is where such architecture should remain.
The glaring incongruity with the traditional style of north coast development screams out from the model on show last week at the Water’s Edge Hotel.
These proposals are no ‘hanging gardens of Bouley Bay’ or a 21st century counterpoint to L’Etacquerel Fort. The overwhelming impression that comes to my mind is that of a potential blot on the north coast landscape that would not look out of place in Legoland.
Even the mandatory association with an award-winning UK architecture practice, so beloved of the Environment Minister, does nothing to recommend these plans. You do not have to spend your time bobbing about in a boat off Bouley Bay, or cruising the north coast from White Rock to the Pinnacle to know that it is a very special place and worthy of protection from inappropriate development.
Grand designs have their place and our Island undoubtedly needs a smattering of beautiful and breathtaking buildings – the 21st equivalent of Le Rât or Les Lumiéres – but in no stretch of the imagination can a block of identical bleached cubes, stacked one upon the other be described as iconic or fall into the elevated category of a ‘grand design.’ The style of architecture being proposed for Bouley Bay would not look out of place in a Mediterranean resort.
However, plonk it smack in the middle of Bouley Bay and it looks as much at home as a Manchester United supporter would do if he were parachuted in to the middle of Anfield’s Kop.
No society or community should be preserved in aspic unless it is a ‘wonder of the world’ such as the Mesa Verde National Park or Matera’s Sassi.
Any enlightened society, that respects the integrity and cultural – or, moreover, the national significance – of its built environment should preserve and protect the best of its past while also finding appropriate space to celebrate the innovative genius of contemporary design.
Thanks to the foresight of Georges-Eugène Haussmann – the French civic planner commissioned by Napoléon III to rebuild Paris – the boulevards and avenues that gracefully fan out from the central focal point of the Arc de Triumph are lined with buildings of uniform height and not overshadowed by ugly skyscrapers of gleaming steel and glass.
It is because of Haussmann’s insistence that the integrity of his city plan be respected, that the cityscape viewed from the Eiffel Tower across to Montmartre is not only free from high towers, but also the incongruous ‘modern’ development that makes central London such a disappointing and bland built environment.
Admittedly, the beauty of Paris from an architectural perspective is largely because the French capital did not suffer the aerial bombardment from the Luftwaffe in the Second World War that destroyed so many European cities, depriving future generations of the beauty of their architectural past.
Although London fared better than most metropolises, the City and East End suffered terribly with so many of Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpieces and countless other architectural gems from the geniuses that followed in his footsteps destroyed in the Blitz.
Far too much of Jersey’s coastline has been ruined by post-Occupation development. The indiscriminant ribbon development that stretches, packed side-by-side, from the Dicq to Grouville Links is not just a mish mash of ‘little boxes’ of all shapes and sizes; it also denies Islanders and visitors access to and the enjoyment of the shore.
The over-development of St Brelade’s Bay is the prime example of how not to develop the hinterland of a Jersey beach, while in neighbouring Ouaisné; Les Ruissaeaux Estate is an intrusive backdrop to an otherwise stunning location.
The plans for the Water’s Edge Hotel site remind me of how an inappropriate development spoiled another of my favourite haunts.
The township of Lorne is the Australian state of Victoria’s premier coastal resort. It was, until the early 1990s, an eclectic collection of buildings at the start of the Great Ocean Road that grew to reflect the generations that have enjoyed its charms.
The little township, ringed by tall eucalyptus, overlooks the open white sands of Loutit Bay while inland the lush bush that straddles the meandering Erskine River is ideal for walks and wildlife watching.
Eighteen years ago Lorne’s gentile charm was compromised by an exclusive development known as the Cumberland Apartments.
The identical units – with balconies and plate glass frontages – are tiered in three storeys above a parade of shops. The development went ahead in spite of objections and while it has boosted Lorne’s economy, opinion is still divided over its dominance over Loutit Bay. Do we want to make the same mistake?
Three years ago, a furze fire threatened Bouley Bay, destroying vast expanses of the cliffscape from the harbour to Tas de Geon.
The widespread destruction left the headland blackened but by the time this summer’s vegetation takes hold it will be hard to find traces of the fire’s fury.
The Water’s Edge Hotel’s days are numbered. Let us ensure that what replaces it respects the environment and vernacular architecture of this area of outstanding natural beauty.
If it does not it will take a great deal longer than three years to remedy.