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Gateway Café

Kaner Olette Architects

Shared By

August King

Project Name

Gateway Café

Project Status


Construction Cost



Lewes District Council


  • Michael Kaner
  • Simon Sharpe


  • Landscape Architect: Allen Scott
  • General Contractor: Tasker Catchpole
  • Hemsley Orrell Partnership
  • Crofton Design

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Project Description


The Gateway Interpretation Café in Peacehaven is an exemplar for retrofit design due to its holistic sustainability approach and collaborative local community led approach. Although a relatively small project with a budget of £340k, it has attempted to ‘raise the bar’ for design in a pocket of deprivation in the Southeast. It was completed in March 2016 after 7 months on site. It was competitively tendered and utilised a JCT ‘traditional’ contract.

It not only creates a new high quality cafe facility but also is a hub for interpretation of the local archaeology, sustainable construction techniques and will be used directly as a learning resource for the local comprehensive school. It is a central element in the £ 1.2 million Big Parks Project - a new recreation destination for the region including supporting play, cycling, skateboarding and walking.

The building was originally a maintenance depot constructed in 1979 with brick walls, timber trusses and an asbestos roof, surrounded with security fencing and a working yard. During the development of the wider masterplan with Allen Scott Landscape, it was identified that the building was in a strategically important location to form a link between the existing sports and community facilities to the new park areas and the South Downs National Park.

Building on the ‘gateway’ concept, it was decided that the maintenance building was to be retained and remodelled. The simple linear form on an east west axis was reworked to create a contemporary rural vernacular, accommodating the café and public toilets. By maintaining the existing footprint disturbance of the local Neolithic archaeology was avoided. The masonry walls and concrete slab were structurally sound and enabled good thermal mass. Their retention substantially reduced capital costs and the embodied energy of new materials compared to new build. The existing roof trusses were in poor condition and so were removed. This enabled the opportunity to open up a larger volume for the café seating area. The asbestos roof was replaced with recyclable zinc. The exterior was insulated and overclad with natural sweet chestnut which is robust and suited to the coastal environment.

Large glazed openings on the north and south facades enable generous views in, out and through the building, maintaining a strong relationship with the surrounding context. They are framed by overhanging solar control canopies. The site had previously suffered from antisocial behaviour and so night time security was an issue of concern. This protection was achieved with sliding timber clad screens that are integral to the building and avoid the standard ‘fortress’ aesthetic.

The building has been extremely well received by the client and is already being used as a case study for sustainable development in the South East. The attendance of over 5000 people on the opening day for the building and the park highlights the importance to the local community. The carbon reductions are constantly monitored on a public website and used as a teaching resource. The client is looking to develop further phases including bike hire facilities.
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