Will Alsop’s Café “Pregnant Armadillo” Government of Jersey Listed

La Frégate Café in St Helier, Jersey, was completed in 1997 and is still in use — but it has come under threat from the state-owned Jersey Development Company, which wants to move it or demolish it as part of a waterside renovation of 1,000 homes.

The Café is now Grade II listed by the Jersey Government following a recommendation from Jersey Heritage, which called it an “arguably landmark” innovative construction by a well-known and respected architect.

The heritage authority added that the café is of particular architectural interest due to its “unique exterior shape,” which resembles an upturned ship, complete with gates, as well as its “thoughtful and contemporary” interior design, which is illuminated from the highest levels.

At 25 years old, the café is the same age as the youngest building on the England Heritage List: James Stirling’s Grade II* – No. 1 Poultry (listed 29 November 2016).

After construction was completed, Alsop was described by the local press as a “monster” and compared to a beached whale and a pregnant armadillo, according to a 1997 article in the Official Gazette. times.

La Frégate was based on a sketch by Alsop, then director of Alsop & Störmer, who died in 2018 at the age of 70. It was delivered by local architect Derek Mason of Mason Design Partnership, who originally won the commission for the new café.

Mason campaigned against moving La Fregate, saying it would be “very difficult to move because it would fall apart”, adding that it should “remain as built, as designed, where it is now”.

The menu was ‘half successful’, he told AJ, but added that he’s still fighting to keep the cafe where it is in the updated plans for the renovation, which are due to be unveiled in spring 2023.

You can’t pick up Poultry Street No. 1 and take it to Sussex. Context is important: there was shipbuilding in Jersey on this site. This building must remain in place.

But the Jersey Development Corporation has argued that it needs to increase the seawall by 1.2 metres, and that the land under La Frégate café needs to be raised to preserve views outside the seawall.

The listing does not necessarily prevent La Frégate from being removed or demolished, but does mean that a planning decision about its future must take into account its particular heritage status.

The Twentieth Century Society, which applied for La Frégate to be listed, welcomed the decision, adding: ‘The structure expresses the innovative approach to design that has characterized Will Alsop’s career.

It is an exceptional well preserved piece of late 20th century design. Its exterior, an exercise in “deliberate form-making”, is unique and innovative, and its interiors are thoughtful and contemporary.

Jersey Development Corporation has been contacted for comment.

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