RIBA (The Royal Institute of British Architects) has announced the prestigious 2017 Stirling Prize winner. Hastings Pier by dRMM Architects was awarded the honour. The RIBA Stirling Prize, now in its twenty-second year, is awarded annually to the UK’s best new building.
Hastings Pier, on the East Sussex coast and overlooking the English Channel, can chart its history from 1872. For many years it was a popular pleasure pier famous for musical acts, but its recent past has been much more precarious. Neglected for years, it closed in 2008 following storm damage, and in 2010 faced destruction when a fire ravaged the entire structure.
Residents and supporters were determined to use the fire as an opportunity to reimagine the pier. Buoyed by the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, a RIBA design competition attracted entries from around the world. London-based architects dRMM won the competition and immediately set about close consultation with locals and stakeholders, quickly reaching the conclusion that the pier must serve a wide variety of scenarios to be sustainable. Additional fundraising from a local action group found 3,000 shareholders to buy a stake in the project at £100 a share – this is the people’s pier.
The new-look Hastings Pier has been repaired and rebuilt, then creatively reimagined. The 19th-century structural ironwork, hidden below deck, has been painstakingly restored and strengthened following years of neglect, storm and fire damage. The surviving Victorian Pavilion, one of two buildings on the Pier, has been transformed into an open plan, glazed cafe-bar.
The vast pier deck has been set aside as an uninterrupted flexible expanse for large-scale concerts, markets and public gatherings. The new timber-clad visitor’s centre building in the centre of the pier has a viewing deck on its roof providing a dramatic space for visitors to experience epic views along the coast and across the English Channel.
The architects have used timber throughout the project, much of it reclaimed from the original pier: the visitor’s centre makes a feature of its scorched wood cladding. The reclaimed timber has also been used to create the pier’s striking new furniture, manufactured locally as part of a local employment initiative.
RIBA President and RIBA Stirling Prize Jury Chair, Ben Derbyshire, said: ‘Hastings Pier is a masterpiece of regeneration and inspiration. The architects and local community have transformed a neglected wreck into a stunning, flexible new pier to delight and inspire visitors and local people.
Hastings Pier showcases the remarkable skills, tenacity and problem-solving flair of its talented architects, dRMM. It also rewards the patrons of this great architectural achievement: the local people who have taken the initiative, and risk, to create this highly innovative and extraordinary new landmark.
I am delighted to award the 2017 RIBA Stirling Prize to the people’s pier.’
Speaking about Hastings Pier, dRMM Founding Director, Professor Alex de Rijke, said: ‘dRMM Architects were delighted to collaborate with Hastings Pier Charity on this ambitious project which, like a ‘Phoenix from the ashes’, was realised through dedicated community action. The new pier is designed as an enormous, free, public platform over the sea – inspiring temporary installations and events across a variety of scales. This space offered more potential than an iconic building on the end of the pier and demonstrates the evolving role of the architect as an agent for change. All of the many people who worked on this long project are grateful to have received the prize – and proud of achieving the apparently impossible’.
Chair of Hastings Pier Charity, Maria Ludkin, added: ‘Hastings Pier is both a symbol of regeneration achieved when communities work together and a beautifully designed canvas to realise multiple uses for the residents and visitors of the town who come to enjoy it. DRMM developed a strong design vision; respecting both the history of the Pier whilst demonstrating innovation and originality in coming up with atwenty-firstt century solution. From the opening day, Hastings Pier has invited curious visitors, stimulated conversations, and engaged and welcomed all who use and support us. Accessible and sustainable, it frames a spectacular seascape and offers unlimited variations for relaxation, contemplation and play.’