The arrival of Modernism

Exterior of Saltdean Lido

Saltdean Lido_530x475

Exterior of Saltdean Lido
Architect: Richard William Herbert Jones (1938)
Photograph: J. Maltby (1938)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection

There are curves aplenty on show at Saltdean Lido. Activity abounds in the pool, the sharply-cut swimming costumes somehow matching the architecture. Round the edges, however, far less energy is being expended: dozing in the deckchairs is a generation determined not to expose knees.

Looking beyond the people, architecturally Saltdean relies on harmony of line and curve. Strong horizontals move around the building uninterrupted: stark, white cornices wrap around the building at ground and first floor levels; thin railings, with their posts widely spaced, trace the edges; folding doors, decorated only by their glazing bars, throw light into the interiors; even the fountain is a linear essay, the water cascading down a set of steps, rather than from some sea serpent or mermaid. Swelling curves offer some relief from what would be monotony of lines. Materials are of secondary importance. Simple and industrially produced, the metalwork and concrete proclaim function not craft. The only decorations permitted are the flagpole and the neon lettering, proudly proclaiming that Saltdean is the place to be. 

This suntrap is a delightful place to escape to, with its bars, restaurant and people watching potential. Designed by Richard W.H. Jones in 1938, it was one of many lidos built in the 1930s, when a diet of exercise, fresh air and sun was prescribed for good health. But Saltdean is quite distinct from other lidos.  No doubt inspiration came from nearby Bexhill-on-Sea, for this is a self-consciously modern building. Saltdean strains to be progressive, but lacks the confidence of her more famous neighbour, the De La Warr Pavilion.

Top of page