A devastating fire in 2010 destroyed 90% of the super-structure of Hastings Pier, leaving only the western pavilion building salvageable. With funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the local community, the opportunity was taken to redefine the role of a pier for the 21st Century. The fabulous result – which won the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2017 – was built on a JCT Minor Works Building Contract.
Hastings Pier’s history goes back to 1872 as a classic, Victorian style, pier designed by Eugenius Birch and built for a cost of £23,250.Numerous additions and features were added to the original construction, including a building housing a shooting gallery, ‘animated pictures’, slot machine, and rifle range/bowling alley. This was sold to Hastings Council in 1913 to fund a new arcade, shops and tea room. The fire in 2010 was not the pier’s first: a blaze in 1917 destroyed the pavilion, which was replaced in 1922 by a less elaborate building. A shoreward end pavilion was built in the 1920s, with an art deco façade added in the 1930s.
During the Second World War, the pier was sectioned and taken over by the armed forces. It suffered bomb damage but was repaired by 1946, with the east view and west view solaria added in the early 1950s. In 1966, Hastings Council built the ‘Triodome’ to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. By 1969 this was converted to an amusement arcade and the bandstand shelter became kiosks and shops. From the 1980s, the pier fell into a state of disrepair, as piers across the country became generally less fashionable. The pier was closed in 2008. Throughout this period, the local community campaigned for the Grade II listed structure to be saved, but plans were changed dramatically when the fire in 2010 devastated so much of the structure.
In 2012 a compulsory purchase order obtained by Hastings Council allowed ownership of the pier project to pass to the Hastings Pier Charity. A development plan was submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund, who granted £11.4m towards the total £15m project cost. The remaining funds were raised through a community scheme, which raised over £600,000, and a number of donations. Londonbased architect dRMM won the competition to design the project and made the decision to place community involvement at the heart of the project – a decision that has reaped rewards in terms of design, function, sense of ownership, and as a catalyst for further community-based redevelopment in the area.
The areas of work on the project broke down into three major sections:
- Demolition and removal of existing damaged structure: removal and disposal of decking, balustrades, damaged ironwork, old ballroom, and all remaining buildings with the exception of the Pavilion.
- New structural elements: raw materials, a completely new deck, replacing 70% of the sub-structure and ironwork, new balustrades, new utilities down the length of the pier.
- New buildings: a new visitor centre and roof terrace, plus refurbishment of the existing pavilion.
It was clear from the outset of the project that none of the parties involved wanted to recreate a ‘standard’ pier. There was desire from both sides to reflect what the function of a 21st century pier could be, and to inspire local ownership.
From dRMM’s initial consultations it was apparent that it would be essential for the new pier to function as a multi-use space and support a diverse range of activities. dRMM’s master-stroke was to create an essentially blank canvas – a well serviced, beautifully designed platform that could support a potentially
limitless range of uses, be it big top circus, major music events, local fishing markets, or international markets. The space has been designed with a ‘plug-in and play’ theme, where users can bring their own architecture and adapt it to the space to suit their needs.
The funding from Heritage Lottery Fund has enabled most of the extensive demolition and structural work – which was the most challenging part of the project – to take place. 3,000 tonnes of steel, equivalent to 400 double decker buses, replace the existing structure. The new deck is comprised of 50 miles of durable West African marine-grade Ekki hardwood, sourced from certified sustainably managed forestry.
Additional funding helped to cover the pier’s two buildings, the first of which, the existing derelict pavilion, has been converted into an open-plan fully glazed restaurant. The brand new visitor centre is a cross-laminated timber structure, clad in the timber decking that survived the fire. The structure also functions as the internal finish, avoiding the need for plaster board or paints. It replaces the weakest central section of the damaged pier and is adaptable for events, exhibitions and educational purposes, and also sports and elevated rooftop terrace. The feeling of open space – walking on water, or perhaps being on a ship is highlighted by the pier’s lowered balustrade design and the quality of the timber deck. The fact that the buildings are concentrated at the shoreward end also gives the feeling of openness and projection out to sea, providing uninterrupted views of the natural surroundings.
The project has sustainability at its core – not only in its design and construction, but also socially. The constrained nature of the budget didn’t allow for a formal BREAAM rating, but the guidelines were followed as far as possible. The project takes a long-term approach to sustaining its ongoing repair, rebuild and transformation. Reclaimed deck furniture was designed by dRMM and Hastings and Bexhill Wood Recycling as part of a local employment initiative. Perhaps more importantly, it has been a galvanizing force for the community – promoting volunteering, investment, employment, civic pride, and inspiring the regeneration of other derelict buildings in the area. The use of the JCT Minor Works Building Contract, with its clear and concise provisions, provides flexibility and enables clients and contractors to work together to allow Hastings to create a new focal point for regeneration in the community.
HASTINGS PIER – KEY STATS
- Total cost: £15m, £11.4m Heritage Lottery Grant, £2.5m other funding source, £600,000 raised by community
- Pier size: 11,720 sqm, visitor centre – 407 sqm, pavilion – 245 sqm
- Generates more than 300,000 extra visitors a year (according to Hastings Pier Charity)
- Created 40 new jobs
- RIBA Stirling Prize
- RIBA South East Award – Project of the Year
- RIBA South East Award – Client of the Year
- RIBA South East Award – Architect of the Year
- Galvanizers association GAGA Award
PROJECT TEAM (ABRIDGED)
- dRMM (architect)
- Hastings Pier Charity (client)
- Best Demolition (demolition of the burnt out ballroom on the pier head)
- Foundation Piling (piling for The Deck)
- FPE Global Holdings Ltd (structural steelwork to form the main structure)
- KLH (The Deck – building structure)
- Konform UK Ltd (The Deck – concrete slab)
- Mather and Smith (cast iron balustrade refurbishment and construction of services access crawlway)
- Ramboll (heritage assessment, conservation and structural engineering, marine engineering, environmental and ecology consulting, facades and building services engineering)
- TimberCraft UK (lift, repair and re-lay existing timber decking and lay new timber decking)
Photograph: Alex de Riijke