Ann Street Providence Place Gardens

‘The undoubted success of the two week trial justified the judges’ decision to award the pilot project contract to the Common Room proposal’ Alan Buck, Planning Projects Manager, Brighton & Hove City Council


Brighton and Hove City Council

Principal stakeholders:

Providence Place Forum
Brighton City College
Wired Sussex
St. Bartholomew’s Church


Plan Projects and Luis Trevino Architects provided the design blue print, called ‘Common Room,’ for the re-landscaping of Providence Place Gardens and Ann Street in Brighton. The site comprises a neighbourhood green space surrounded by a complex of small streets and alleyways and represents a key area of public realm close to London Road, one of the principal residential neighbourhoods in the centre of the city. Common Room sought to bring about its transformation through imaginative architectural and urban design, digital technology and ‘meanwhile’ projects to re-establish community use within what had become a largely abandoned area.  Following the success of ‘Common Room,’ the Local Authority worked up detailed designs, with the practice’s support, to deliver the permanent realisation of the project. 


The project area sits in one of the most deprived areas of Brighton; prior to the works, it had not been able to plug into the progressive and positive aspects of the local economy because of poor space planning and facilities. The overarching planning strategy for the area, the London Road Masterplan, seeks to re-invent the neighbourhood as part of the city’s ‘knowledge economy’ by capitalising on the presence of two key assets: City College, one of the region’s leading IHEs, and New England House, a hothouse of creative and digital private enterprise. Part of the Common Room project, now an aspect of the permanent realisation, was to establish wifi access in the area, allowing the site to fulfil a role within  this ‘digital spine.’ 


The decision to address the area emerged through detailed community engagement work developed by the local authority. The Common Room project, and subsequent design proposals sought to respond to community needs by preserving the valued aspects of the site, such as its peace and tranquillity, but also taking out unnecessary structure that frustrated access to the site and constrained its possible uses. 
The design process employed reflects a wholehearted belief that the only way to deliver effective renewal programmes of this sort is to work closely with the people living and working close by. Following our appointment, we set up a representative panel of people drawn from the community called the ‘Providence Place Forum’. This group worked with us as a key partner in refining and then delivering the project.   

Design Approach:

The practice sought to pick up on the natural rhythms of life in the city, stitching the area back into community life to create an attractive, functional place with an evening as well as daytime life. At times calm and tranquil, at others alive with movement and activity, the new landscaping prompts social interaction, play and work related activity, facilitating the ‘social’ and ‘optional’ uses so important for public spaces to thrive. 
At its conclusion, the re-design of Providence Place and Ann Street can be seen as a pioneering attempt to restore life to an over-engineered complex of streets, pavements and open spaces through progressive landscape architecture that optimises the cultural potential of the site.