Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Hastings, East Sussex


I was delighted to learn last night* that the Royal Institute of British Architects has awarded its annual Stirling Prize for Britain’s best new bulding to Hastings Pier. Going back to 1872, the pier was a popular entertainment venue, but closed in 2008 after storm damage. In 2010 there was a fire, which nearly finished the pier off for good.† But the people of Hastings and its council rose to the considerable challenge of restoring and rebuilding the structure, raising money locally, enlisting the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, and finding 3,000 shareholders to buy a stake in the project at £100 a share.

A RIBA design competition was won by dRMM Architects, who have masterminded the restoration and creative reimagining of the pier. The 19th-century structural ironwork, hidden below deck, has been painstakingly restored and strengthened. The surviving Victorian pavilion, one of two buildings on the pier, has been transformed into an open plan, glazed café-bar.

The vast pier deck has been set aside as an uninterrupted flexible expanse for large-scale concerts, markets and public gatherings. The new timber-clad visitor centre building in the centre of the pier has a viewing deck on its roof providing a dramatic space for visitors to experience epic views along the coast and across the English Channel. The architects have used timber throughout the project, much of it reclaimed from the original pier. The reclaimed timber has also been used to create the pier’s striking new furniture, manufactured locally as part of a local employment initiative. It is a cause for celebration Hastings once more has the pier it deserves and that the project’s quality has been recognised by RIBA.
Hastings Pier: new building with reclaimed timber cladding

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* I share this information in part for British readers who may have been distracted from it last night by Hallowe’en or by television (apparently there was the final of some sort of cake-baking programme on).
† I posted about the fire damage here.
Photographs James Robertshaw (top) and Franceso Montaguti (bottom)


Ann Kramer said...

Nice entry Phil. It is a beautiful space - deliberately free of traditional pier amusements and available therefore for a host of other events.

Evelyn said...

I think it's absolutely marvelous that England has the Heritage Lottery Fund to finance these restoration projects. Is it contingent on citizen participation? I've never quite understood if funds are being matched by HLF or if it is all donated.
Curious. ; )
The Castle Lady

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

Neighbouring town rivalry! Not only will Eastbourne notice the smart new pier, but also the quantity of smooth, soft sand. In a town already developed, a pier offers you an extra bit of land to make use of. But it should be demotic - you need to be able to parade your grandchildren up and down it at no cost. It needs to be sufficiently twee and old-fashioned and seasidey - like the wooden cafe painted blue at Cromer. Let's hope it's a successful conversion, and not yet another seaside opportunity missed! Hastings in the past had a bad reputation for charging through the nose for facilities free elsewhere. If visitor numbers dropped as a result - can we draw a conclusion?

Hels said...

I love piers and their entertainment facilities, and have tried to capture as many as possible in Britain and Australia. In Hastings, I was there sometime between 1872 and 2008, but not since. And beach side Winter Gardens as well. Now I will have to visit Hastings again, especially to see the surviving Victorian pavilion, (now an open café-bar?)

Have a look at the original Hastings photo. And thanks for the links

Philip Wilkinson said...

Evelyn: What usually happens is that HLF donates money to projects on the condition that the owners or community match this money with at least an equal amount from other sources. So big projects like this are funded by a combination of different sources of money. Actually, many grant-giving bodies now make this stipulation, not just the HLF.