Its pier has been the pride of Southend since 1835 – it is over two kilometres long and, of its type, it is one of the longest in the world. By gathering forces through an international architecture competition, the borough council wanted to produce a proposal to breathe new life into and around the Pier.

The aim was to have a modern attraction with an environmental profile, which can both attract visitors and create a sense of pride among the town’s inhabitants.

The competition attracted entries from as many as 74 practices, of which five went further to the final session at which we were named winner with our proposal for an events thoroughfare which starts out as an extension to the town’s high street and ends in a spectacular open-air theatre, restaurant and cultural centre out at sea.

Following the competition win we teamed up with UK practice Sprunt to oversee the development of the design. In our winning entry ‘Sculpted by Wind and Wave’ we proposed a meeting place for tourists and residents with restaurant, café, cultural centre with studios, exhibitions, film shows, live performances and events.

Top of the bill is an open-air theatre accommodating an audience of 500 sitting in the lee of the wind under an open sky with the sea all around and the coastline as a backdrop. The new pier head can be seen as the starting signal for the transformation of the entire pier, from one oblong entertainment space to a living urban thoroughfare.

The whole project has been integrated into the scenery at the location. The structural elements have borrowed their shape from the waves of the sea, and the three elements have been arranged to give the best possible shelter and view.

The maritime environment is challenging for most traditional building materials. Our proposal rests on a far-reaching sustainability philosophy, with natural materials (timber, Cor-Ten steel and glass) that will withstand the tough climate, removing any need for maintenance. All buildings are being made energy-efficient with renewable energy, wind power, heating from the sea water – all to guarantee a carbon-neutral environment.Description of White Arkitekter.

Location: Southend, England

Architect: White Arkitekter

Project Team: Niels de Bruin, Fredrik Pettersson, Keith Boxer, Sam Keshavarz, Mikkel Olsen, Katarina Hennig

Client: Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
Project start/end: 2009 – 2010
Completed: 2012
Area/size: Buiding about 1 100 m² GTA. Landscape about 3 000 m² GTA
Photographer/illustrator: White
immages: Cortesy of White Arkitekter

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