dRMM reimagines the seaside pier for the twenty-first century after the catastrophic 2010 fire at Hastings
The destruction of Hastings Pier by fire in 2010 provided an opportunity to redefine what a pier could be in the twenty-first century, in a departure from the typical accumulation of poorly-built commercial booths. It also presented the opportunity to create a generous amenity space for Hastings & St Leonards’ residents and visitors. An extensive consultation drew the conclusion was that the Pier would have to support many different scenarios.
The Heritage Lottery Fund enabled the repairs to the damage below deck – a combined result of destruction from fire, sea erosion and storm damage. A small portion of the grant was used to convert the single remaining derelict Victorian Pavilion on the pier into a revitalised, open-plan, fully-glazed and extended version of the past.
Architect dRMM’s concept for the redesign of the pier was, rather than create a predictable but unnecessary ‘hero building’ at the end, to provide open space with universal access. The focus was on creating a well-serviced, strong platform that could support a variety of events and uses, from circuses to music events, fishing to markets. Different users can bring their own architecture to ‘plug in’. Small local trading stalls in the form of classic beach huts were the first settlers, setting the example for an endless range of future possibilities.
Creative use of timber is at the heart of the transformed pier design. The new visitor centre is a cross-laminated timber structure, clad in the limited timber decking that survived the 2010 fire. The reclaimed timber was also used to make the deck furniture on the deck, designed by dRMM and Hastings & Bexhill Wood Recycling as part of a local employment initiative. The visitor centre is designed as an adaptable space for indoor events, exhibitions and educational activities, with an elevated belvedere on top. A glass walled, open-air ‘room’ looks out to the extensive views over the pier and beyond toward Europe, then back to the town and coast.
The Pier forms an extension of the promenade from which it projects, making a continuous public, open space. The experience of being surrounded by sea and ‘walking on water’ is heightened by the optical game set up by the louvred balustrade and the quality of the timber deck. Future phases include plans for a large, mobile, timber canopy that traverses the full length of the 280-metre-long pier.