28 November 2017

Hastings Pier crowned the UK’s best new building 

TRADA image

Close collaboration with the local community created the new Hastings Pier, a world-class structure worthy of the 2017 RIBA Stirling Prize. A seven-year campaign by architects dRMM was instrumental in: “transforming a neglected wreck into a stunning, flexible new pier to delight and inspire.” Timber was at the heart of the redesign and brings a national treasure back to life.  


Hastings Pier, razed to the ground by a devastating fire in 2010, has been crowned the UK's best new building, winning this year's Royal Institute of British Architects’ Stirling Prize. 


Designed by dRMM Architects, the new pier has returned the beating heart to an East Sussex community, shocked and saddened by the loss of one of Britain’s most iconic sea-front buildings. 


After the fire, residents and supporters joined forces to use the disaster to reimagine the structure, once famous for hosting musical acts, including: The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Kinks, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, and The Clash. 


dRMM began a seven-year collaboration with the community, launching a crowdfunding campaign that raised £590,000 of the £14.2m cost.  3,000 shareholders bought a stake in the project at £100 a share, earning it the title ‘The People’s Pier’. The remainder of the money was funded by the Heritage Lottery. 


RIBA president and prize jury chairman Ben Derbyshire praised the structure as a 'masterpiece of regeneration and inspiration'. He said: “The architects and local community have transformed a neglected wreck into a stunning, flexible new pier to delight and inspire visitors and residents of Hastings. Local people have taken the initiative and risk, to create this highly innovative and extraordinary new landmark. 


“dRMM’s role has been utterly pivotal in realising this masterpiece of subtle, effortless design. They have driven this project through to completion: campaigning, galvanising and organising local support throughout each aspect of the funding stage. They went above and beyond what most people think of as the role of the architect – and then they kept going.” 


Speaking exclusively to TRADA’s ITWT magazine, Steven Wallis, Senior Associate at dRMM, said: “We adopted a non-architect approach to our design for Hastings Pier. It was very much about engaging the community to bring a national treasure back to life, and timber was at the heart of that.   


“As a designer today, it’s impossible to ignore the environmental advantages timber holds over other construction media. Working with engineered timber, we were able to push boundaries that were once only in the realms of concrete and steel, while reducing our carbon footprint. These modern materials have brought the warmth and beauty of wood to Hastings Pier and helped to promote a healthy, exciting and dynamic environment for visitors.”  


The new pier stands proud, like the deck of a ship, from where visitors can gaze down at some of the original rusting columns. It contains reclaimed timber from the original pier and has scorched wood cladding on its visitor centre, which has a viewing deck. 

The 19th-century structural iron work, hidden below deck, has been restored and strengthened and the surviving Victorian Pavilion is now an open plan, glazed cafe-bar, with the deck set aside for large-scale concerts, markets and public gatherings. 

A small pavilion in the middle houses a cafe and community space, with a large staircase leading up to a rooftop belvedere, which doubles as seating for concerts.  It is clad in timber planks reclaimed from the original fire-damaged deck, fitted in a zigzag pattern. They have also been used to create new furniture, manufactured nearby as part of a local employment initiative.  


Check out the talk by Steven Wallis, Senior Associate at dRMM, on the role timber played in achieving the vision for Hastings Pier at the Timber Focus Theatre at Timber Expo 2017: