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Hastings Pier – The Stirling Winner
by Paul Drew
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Of all the quality buildings that were shortlisted for the Stirling Prize, it was rewarding to see Hastings Pier win.
After the pier burnt down in 2010, it seemed to be the end for a structure that has a history dating back to 1872. But through perseverance from local groups and squeezing the maximum value out of Heritage Lottery Fund and Crown Funding the pier has been given a new life by dRMM architects.
Although at first glance the pier is unassuming, second consideration shows it to be something quite remarkable. In architectural terms there is no sensationalist object building as with previous years’ winners, and nor is that a key concern. More significant to its success is its bold, flexible open space. This open space allows an uninterrupted vista across the sea, with minimal intrusion from the structure.
The open space is also key to the longevity of Hastings Pier, as any pier without sound commercial activities will not maintain its position as a community asset. The flexible open space doubles up as a public event space, as much for local fisherman as for theatre and concert shows. This is not to say the pier is purely an event space, the front of the pier acts as a market place, which is vibrant in the summer months.
The success of Hastings Pier is also no doubt due to its beginnings. The project arose from a significant amount of community and Council consultation, which produced a sense of ownership in local communities that is a rare feat to achieve. The desire by the local community to reinstate a piece of Hastings is as great an achievement as the architecture itself.
Ultimately, its impact rests on it being stripped back to the bare bones of what public space can be. This is not a pier trying to survive off greasy donuts, arcade games and bumper cars. Instead, it’s a truly public space, owned by the local community first, and celebrated by visitors who flock to visit it.