Heatherwick Studio was founded in 1994, bringing together architects, product designers and engineers within a single practice. Their projects embrace architecture, master-planning, infrastructure, sculpture and product design. The studio has a proven track record for delivering consistently high quality innovative schemes for clients worldwide. Heatherwick Studio were formally briefed in September 2005 to create a new cafe building on the site of an existing seafront kiosk. Thomas and his design team, headed by Peter Ayres, set out to create a building that would not only become a popular local cafe and attraction but a place of what they called “prospect and refuge”, with generous views of the sea and a cosy atmosphere whatever the weather. Thomas says: "The seaside at Littlehampton has a raw beauty. It isn't fiddly or fuzzy, or about dolphins and anchors, and our building has been designed to fit into this context. Our challenge is to build a functional and durable structure on a tight budget, where you can eat a Mr. Whippy or drink Dom Perignon." The old kiosk sat on the seafront promenade at Littlehampton facing the sea and was only able to operate in fine weather. When the kiosk was closed East Beach was bereft of amenities, with a loss of activity leading to a possible increase in antisocial behaviour.
There was planning permission for a proposed 80-seater restaurant building to replace the kiosk. This was a 30 metre long, 5.5 metre tall building, and would have had a significant impact on views from the South Terrace Conservation Area. So the new owners stepped in with something far more inspirational and beautiful.
East Beach Cafe is no ordinary seaside kiosk, rising like a piece of weatherworn driftwood washed up on Littlehampton’s East Beach; it is at once familiar and alien to its coastal surroundings. The Cafe is a bold statement that has made Littlehampton a destination for day tripping design and architecture junkies, while at the same time providing local residents with a local cafe to call their own.