The West Pier was first opened in 1866 and was England’s finest seaside pier, recognised as such as the only one with a Grade 1 listing. Although closed in 1975 and ravaged by the elements, it survived for many years as a magical and enduring part of Brighton and Hove’s seafront and an important element along with the Brighton Pier in bringing interest to a comparatively straight coastline. Unfortunately, in the twenty-first century it has become a shadow of its former self, having been reduced to a rusting skeleton by two fires.
Whilst some like the current silhouette, many see it as a sad indictment on the City’s neglect of its historic buildings and would like to see a truly contemporary new pier. With this in mind and and in recognition that the footfall was always going to needs an increase to support the borrowing on the adjacent i360, we have proposed a modern pier with up to date uses.
Any new pier needs to be commercially viable, certainly in today’s market place, but interestingly the West Pier has always had to make money, a speculative venture that relied on enough visitors spending money to keep it “afloat” both physically and metaphorically. Fred Gray, in his book on the pier “Walking on Water”, charts the change from promenade to pleasure dome to funfair. Our proposal was intended to be a modern iteration and development of this.
Our proposals were intended to both visually and programmatically complement the proposed i360. Both the main and service access must work in tandem with the i360. Equally aesthetically the fifth elevation - the roof – must be dynamic from above, enhancing the visitor experience with differing views on their journey travelling up the tower. Equally the i360 acts as a beacon and signpost to the combined development.
To retain the spirit of the former pier, we believe this means the following:
- To provide free access to external perambulation for visitors and the people of the City. To bring this perambulation up to date, to protect the visitor from the elements and to encourage movement to the facilities at the ned of the pier.
- To divide the pier into two elements, with views of the sea between them, to reflect the previous pier.
- To retain the pier’s set piece relationship with Regency Square.