Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

250 × 210 × 23 mm
336 pages
439 illustrations, 246 in colour
01 Feb 2009

Designing the Seaside Architecture, Society and Nature Fred Gray

The notion of taking a seaside holiday has only existed since the 18th century, when it was slowly becoming accepted that fresh air and sea water are good for health. Since then, a vast array of seaside resorts to suit all budgets has been developed in all areas of the world along with fairgrounds, piers, holiday camps, boardwalks, swimming pools and casinos. In addition, the seaside has seen the development of a variety of distinctive architectures, from the smallest beach hut to the grandest of hotels.

In Designing the Seaside, Fred Gray provides a history of seaside architecture from the 18th century to the present day. He covers the formal and informal design processes involved in major buildings as well as ephemeral structures from piers and pavilions to resort parks and open spaces, to shops selling candy floss. While the book's chief focus is Britain, it also contains numerous examples from the USA, Europe and the Far East.

Seaside architecture often assumes iconic cultural status that defines either specific resorts (the Blackpool Tower, the Royal Pavilion in Brighton) or the nature of a holiday by the coast (the pier and holiday camp). The development of the seaside has also involved transforming existing landscapes: what were once perceived as marginal or valueless sites – cliffs, sand dunes and marsh – were reclaimed for resorts and often developed into good quality, even exotic towns.

Featuring informative and often entertaining photographs, architectural drawings, guidebooks, postcards and railway and publicity posters, this book provides a thoroughly readable as well as visually fascinating account of changing attitudes to holiday-making and its setting. Gray explores questions of taste, fashion, class and gender and particularly how the seaside became a hotbed for issues of morality and sexuality – from bathing machines to beauty pageants.

‘Shortlisted for the Sir Banister Fletcher Award 2007’ — Award

‘From pavilions and piers (including the scandalous demise of Brightons West Pier), to bungalows, beach huts and bathing machines (the first purpose-designed form of seaside architecture), this is a fine celebration of a very English invention.’ — The Guardian

‘Filled with photographs, architectural drawings, guidebooks, postcards and posters, this book explores changing attitudes to holidays and their settings. Taste, fashion and class make an appearance and there is an exploration of how the seaside became a hotbed for issues of morality, where people took their sauce on a postcard as often as with their fish and chips.’ — Daily Telegraph

‘This colourful sweep through the history of seaside art and architecture is a perfect blend of the scholarly and the entertaining . . . illustrated with great archive images.’ — Coast

‘Fred Grays illuminating study of the history of seaside architecture shows what a profound influence many of the innovations born on British coasts have had on Western holiday ideals . . . his account is enlivened by the wealth of pictorial evidence he has gathered. The fascinating photos of past and present resorts . . . show changing attitudes to holidaymaking and reveal the class and gender splits at work (or play) through the ages.’ — Metro London

‘manages to be both scholarly and colourful and offers a timely history of seaside art and architecture, from Brighton Pier and beach huts in Nice to a derelict resort complex in the Baltic, to the bizarre Palm islands of Dubai.’ — London Evening Standard

‘an entertaining, thought-provoking book . . . gloriously illustrated book . . . a pleasure both to read and to handle.’ — Brighton Evening Argus

‘a fascinating, well written and lavishly illustrated history of seaside architecture taking on board the influence of society and nature from the origins of the seaside holiday in the eighteenth century, to the present day . . . There are so many enthralling nuggets in this book . . . a most thought-provoking, informative and enjoyable read.’ — Journal of Design History

‘This is a splendid book, solid, substantial, and beautfully illustrated in a variety of idioms, and a delight to read and peruse . . . It examines what is distinctively seaside about the architecture, design, and ambience of the Western beach resorts, and it does so through themed historical analyses covering the two centuries and half since the invention of the modern seaside holiday.’ — Annals of Tourism Research

Designing the Seaside is beautifully illustrated, with many of the plates in colour . . . The calibre of the visual material and its variety is striking but it should not be allowed to overshadow the text, which is deeply informed and fluently written . . . Grays book is a tonic, to read and enjoy for pleasure.’ — Tourism Management Journal

‘This instructive, enjoyable, and beautifully presented book is a must for anyone interested in the evolution of the material fabric of the seaside resort. The focus is the authors own stamping ground of Brighton and the English south coast, but he uses this as a base from which to explore other resorts in Britain, and to make much more than passing allusions to the development of the seaside throughout the western world.’ — Modernism/Modernity

Show all

Fred Gray is Emeritus Professor of Continuing Education at the University of Sussex. He is the author of Designing the Seaside: Architecture, Society and Nature (Reaktion, 2006).