Southend Pier, "the big lift"
History in the making as new cultural centre is craned onto Southend Pier, the world´s longest pleasure pier.
Big Lift: Scheduled w/c 14 May 2012
A new 350 sq m cultural centre commissioned by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and designed by Scandinavian practice White arkitekter, working in partnership with London based architects Sprunt, will be craned onto Southend Pier next week.
Weighing 170 tonnes, the structure will be transported in one piece from Tilbury Docks, where it has been fabricated off-site. It will be transported by barge along the Thames Estuary and lifted onto the pier head the following day at high tide using a 400-tonne marine sheer leg crane. Once in place on the pier head the structure will be clad with an external skin and fitted out ahead of a grand opening this
Originally constructed in the Victorian era and measuring 1.34 miles in length, Southend Pier is the world’s longest pleasure pier. With an illustrious history, the Grade II listed pier, which has its own train line, has survived fires, boat crashes, two world wars and economic decline, as well as undergoing a series of design alterations and amendments since it opened in 1830.
The new cultural centre will be the first structure added to the pier head since 2000 when a new lifeboat station was added. Sited at the far end of the pier, the challenge of this project has been building onto a listed and fragile structure in an offshore environment. White arkitekter’s ambitious design, ‘Sculpted by Wind and Wave’, the winning entry of an international competition in 2009, responds to the conditions of the site and represents a radical deviation from the traditional Victorian architecture of the town. Its sweeping geometric form and harmonising palette of materials celebrate the topography of the windswept site to integrate it into the scenic landscape. The dynamic roof shape, which measures 9 metres at its highest point will house a large multi-purpose hall with floor to ceiling glazed elevations offering spectacular views out to the Thames Estuary.
The building has sloping walls and a twisting hyperbolic paraboloid (double curved) roof form. Modelled in 3D using Catia, software more commonly used in the design of planes or cars, it is the geometry of the structure that gives the building its signature sweeping profile. The complex modular arrangement makes efficient use of material. A system of supporting trusses gives the building the stiffness
it needs to spread its weight evenly over the pier’s piles. The structure is strong enough to be hung from the crane by only four points without twisting or damaging itself during installation. Following the competition win White teamed up with UK practice Sprunt to oversee the development of the design. White have worked with structural engineers Price & Myers from the outset to overcome the technical challenges presented by the site and to bring their vision to reality. All three partners have worked closely to maintain the integrity of the original concept with onsite pile testing undertaken to ensure the pier will withstand the weight of the new building.
Contractor Kier have overseen off-site construction and are tasked with the challenge of managing the Big Lift. They have worked closely with the London Port Authority to coordinate the sequence, slowing river traffic to prevent large bow and stern washes, which could adversely affect the gentle descent of the building. When landing the building it will be lowered at only 2mm a minute to mitigate impact
damage to the 100-year-old cast iron piles that support the pier.
Salt corrosion, wind and wave loads are some of the elements that combine to make the pier head a hostile environment for building. High specification materials have been used throughout to help achieve a long expected lifespan, despite these conditions. The roof and wall panels are built of insulated timber panels covered with a waterproof membrane. The walls are clad with Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP)
panels, whilst the roof is treated with a non-slip textured top coat which is colour matched to the GRP walls to give the building a unified expression. Working in consultation with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) the team have specified a roof surface treatment to sustain the Turnstone birds that roost on Southend Pier. Similarly the facade glazing is tinted to discourage Turnstones flying
The building boasts some impressive environmental credentials: The superstructure is built of recyclable steel; original timber decking uplifted from the pier to make way for the new structure will be reusedto build the timber plinth it sits upon to raise it above a worst case scenario wave and flood line; the building envelope achieves a high level of insulation and air tightness; the building achieves 10% renewble
energy with the provision of air source heat pump technology, mechanical ventilation and a heat
On completion this summer, the new Cultural Centre will house a multi-purpose hall, seating approx 185 people; a 40 sq m artist studio; a café with outdoor terrace; ancillary accommodation (WCs, store and kitchen). It will host a programme of indoor and outdoor cultural activities, bringing new cultural life to the promenade and reclaiming the pier as the town’s main attraction.
“We named our original 2009 competition-winning entry ‘Sculpted by Wind and Wave’. The design has undergone a series of iterations since but it still stands up to the name as it speaks of the unity of the dramatic scenery of the Thames Estuary and the dynamic shape of the emerging building. With the arrival of the Cultural Centre, Southend Pier stands some 120 years young ready to meet future generations
Fredrik Petersson, Project Architect, White arkitekter
Disclaimer: the proposed big lift date is subject to weather conditions and may have to be postponed if
adverse conditions are predicted.