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Shortlisted: Planning Awards, 2024, Highly Commended: MacEwen Award 2023

Sunspot is a major new project on the seafront at Jaywick Sands in Essex, contributing to the wider Jaywick Sands Place Plan which we are also developing. The project - completed in September 2023 - includes affordable business units, covered market, café, public toilets and meeting rooms alongside a community garden, bus shelter and event space.

Commissioned by Tendring District Council, the project creates a new landmark for Jaywick Sands, generating jobs and local services in a community which has experienced severe deprivation for decades. The building has a distinctive geometric design and graphic colour scheme, and has been designed as a ‘long meanwhile’ project that can be disassembled and re-erected, or the elements reused and recycled, if the site is redeveloped as part of wider long-term regeneration.

The Sunspot provides much needed affordable business space, from light industrial uses to shopfront units and office/studio space, which meets demand for start-up and grow-on units in the wider area and brings those employment benefits to a community with few employment opportunities. New public facilities, including public toilets, a covered market/event hall, café, training rooms, as well as a bus shelter, community garden and public open space, are included in the scheme to provide wider benefits to the community and address existing deficits in local services and infrastructure.

The building is sited in the centre of the plotlands community of Jaywick Sands, on the site of the former seafront amusements during its heyday as a holiday resort. The site has been vacant since the amusements closed over twenty years ago, creating a gap between the two main residential neighbourhoods. The building is named after the much-loved 1930s modernist amusement arcade on the site, the Sunspot, and is intended to create a new focal point for the community.

HAT undertook an initial demand and feasibility study, involving extensive research through community networks as well as local agents, to understand the level of demand for commercial space in the area, the type of space required, and the needs of local small-scale businesses, sole traders and potential entrepreneurs in the community. HAT authored the full business case and economic impact assessment in 2020 for the successful application for capital funding for the project for £2m through SELEP and the Getting Building Fund.

"practical and hopeful at once, attuned to its place, aspirational but not vainglorious"

Rowan Moore, The Observer

"Every aspect of the project has benefitted from the architects’ engagement and sense of responsibility."

MacEwan Award judges, RIBA Journal

Sunspot was a runner-up for the MacEwan Award, which celebrates 'architecture for the common good.' "It was HAT Projects’ enterprise and skill in fostering the conditions for the project that particularly impressed the MacEwen Award jury. They praised the optimism and confidence it exudes. "

Sunspot was picked among Observer architecture critic Rowan Moore's 'Five best projects of 2023', describing Sunspot as "a case of doing a lot with a little, a robust and playful structure that brings much needed employment to Jaywick Sands. It's a new landmark for the resort, with the improvisational spirit of it's pioneers."

Sunspot has also been shortlisted for the Planning Awards for best use of brownfield land in placemaking.

Photography: Maddie Persent, Jim Stephenson, HAT Projects.