The Riviera Hotel was built in 1937 by L Stewart Smith using reinforced concrete in the mouchel/hennebique system. It was undertaken by Truscon Ltd with rendered asphaltic flat roofs. During World War II the hotel was used by American Forces as a hospital.
A symmetrical building with a central administration and amenities block, including large dining room and kitchens complex with a tower flanked by two long arcs of bedrooms on two stories.Originally this area included the dance floor but a later (circa 1960) the ballroom was attached behind the s wing and the original entrance has to the w a later small two storey flat roofed office addition sympathetic to the original scheme.
The slender square tower has a recessed panel to each face with a ‘keystone’ above with Riviera inscribed vertically on the panel. Below this is the reception block that has to each side wide glazed arched windows and entrance doors and panels four large casements with radial heads, set behind the added small block with three steel casements to the front and two on the s return. Large glazed doors give access in the re-entrant on the north side.
To each side is a two arched section brought forward from the continuous arcs of bedrooms in 29 bays; of these the outer 11 bays in each case embrace 2 floors, with setback decorative Spanish style balcony railings above the floor slab which is also recessed.
The inner 18 bays have arches at each level (later addition) with deep continuo’s spandrel registering the floor slab as a projecting string course, and simple railings at the upper level. The plain square dividing piers have a plinth approximately 1m high.
The balcony promenade, stepped slightly at the change in outer detail, and on a single step at ground floor, is backed by a wall with 2” and 3” light steel casements in a complex rhythm alternating with 6-panel doors with raised mouldings and a concrete staircase at bay, 11 from each end, and external steel staircases at the each end. The rear wall to the arcs is completely plain, with a simple cornice band.
This building epitomises the austere approach of the modernists in the immediate pre-war era and suggests the designer’s acquaintance with contemporary work in Rome.
The dining and dance hall, approximately 24m x 12m, had a clear span, affected by using a ‘diagrid’ concrete ceiling structure, costing approximately £40,000 including fittings at the time of the build. The report on the 20th February 1937 in the Southern Times shortly before the hotel was due to open also refers to a concrete pier being built in the nearby cove for boats to unload was due to be built. The building is and always will be a commanding site overlooking the whole of Weymouth Bay and with the exception of the ballroom, retains the purity of the original conception in the landscape.
It was purchased by Pontins as a holiday camp in the late 1950s. The Riviera continued to operate as a hotel until it was sold to the present owners in 2009 who have invested over £4 million into the new Riviera Hotel.