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Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts


Opened in 1969 as the Gardner Arts Centre, it was created as part of the then new University of Sussex. For some years prior to 2007 it was now run as an independent entity, though the University still owned the building and provided subsidy.

In 2007 the centre closed following the loss of funding from ACE and Hove City Council. The University were keen to maintain the building, and a programme of refurbishment works was implemented.

Situated in parkland on the attractive campus, the brick built design is based on a series of concentric circles, elegant from the exterior rather than exciting. The whole centre was originally conceived to demonstrate the essential unity of all the arts, and as a highly adaptable space, usable for performances, painting and sculpture, and with moveable seating and a variety of different size spaces which were intended to be capable of use as stages. In practice the flexibility proved illusory, and the auditorium was fundamentally flawed. An ungainly fan of banks of single tiered seating has been fitted into the large central circular space, bounded between walls finished in light colour wood, and a range of dark metal side galleries. The open stage, effectively confined to a wide proscenium format, now has an extensive forestage built out, and the setting area (11m x 13.5m) is provided with 9 hemp sets.

Following its reopening as the Attenborough Centre, the building is in remarkable condition, and full use as a centre for the creative arts and a university resource.

Built / Converted
Dates of use
  • 1969 : continuing
Current state
Current use
Arts Centre (university arts centre)
University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 9RA, England
Further details
Other names
Gardner Arts Centre
  • Owner/Management: Gardner Arts Centre Limited, managers
  • 1969 Use: continuing
  • 1969 Design/Construction: arts centre constructed on new university campus.
    Sir Basil Spence Bonnington & Collins
    - Architect
    Sean Kenny
    - Consultant
  • Capacity
  • Listing
Stage type
Building dimensions: -
Stage dimensions: Depth: 11m x 13.5m
Proscenium width: -
Height to grid: -
Inside proscenium: -
Orchestra pit: -