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  • Articles by Sonali

    Review: Hastings Pier

    Hastings, a seaside town on the Sussex coastline, has a newly restored pier, adding to its many tourist attractions (including a pebble beach and Hastings Castle dating back to the time of William the Conqueror). What’s more, this new structure has been voted 'Pier of the Year 2017' by the National Pier Society.

    From far away it might not seem particularly noteworthy. Once you reach the Pier though, you will be pleasantly surprised. The combined effect of its simplicity and sheer scale is striking.

    Architects de Rijke Marsh Morgan (dRMM) have taken a minimalistic approach to this commission. West African marine grade Ekki hardwood planks have been used for the decking, a vast space (58mx 280m) stretching towards the horizon. The beautiful grey wood grain is emphasised by the decking's precision engineered layout. This use of timber recalls the boats that would sail to and from Hastings.

    This decking is supported by a steel structure, 70% of which was completely rebuilt in the restoration. As you walk along the sturdy platform, you’ll find explanatory placards at intervals on the protective railing. These tell the Pier's vibrant history.

    Hastings Pier, designed by architect Eugenius Birch, was originally built in 1872 as a Victorian pleasure pier with Punch and Judy shows, pantomimes and eventually a bowling alley. It survived both World Wars and went on to experience a boom period in the 1930s. The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix played here in the 1960s. Visitor numbers dwindled later on when affordable package holidays became more popular. It was closed after safety concerns in 2008. The structure was almost totally burnt down in a fire in 2010 and a reconstruction project was coordinated by the Hastings Pier Charity in 2016 using lottery money and local crowd funding.

    Alex de Rijke (of dRMM) said that the previous pier was ‘a shanty town of commercialism’, overrun with candy floss stalls and games arcades. By contrast the new structure is in pristine condition and clutter free. There's a neat row of food kiosks painted in bright stripes, and a few benches (made from decking reclaimed from the old pier). There's also the Pavilion Restaurant serving locally sourced fish & chips, and a visitor centre (the Deck), located at its centre.

    Once past the Deck we’re treated to an uninterrupted, immersive vista. There’s a focus here on essential elements: the timber decking, sea and sky. It’s as if a familiar view has been reframed and we’re looking at it again with fresh eyes. This is the stuff of video art installations. In fact it does feel like you're in an artwork because there's a sense of being in a controlled environment.

    It’s also known as a People’s Pier and is often used for open air cinema events and concerts bringing colour and life to the structure. But the new structure has been dubbed ‘the plank’ by some locals who aren't overly impressed by this minimalistic approach. Others are more hopeful that it will encourage regeneration in Hastings.

    The Hastings Pier Project and dRMM have been shortlisted for the 2017 Stirling Prize as well as being awarded 'Pier of the Year'. This structure certainly brings a wow factor to Hastings without seeming ostentatious, complementing the existing tourist attractions.



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