History alone should see West Pier replaced
I sympathise strongly with the idea of replacing the West Pier with a new and innovative design, as called for by Chris Morley in Ed Dorrell's piece (AJ 5.2.04).However, I think it misses the point. Brighton does not need another pier and on its own it is unlikely that it would attract investment - if it did, a new pier could theoretically be built more easily and more appropriately elsewhere along the Brighton and Hove seafront, perhaps as part of the Gehry-inspired King Alfred development.
The restoration of the West Pier, if it can be achieved, is simply a very important historic project of international significance, and this is the only real justification for it.
As a practice we have championed contemporary architecture in the city, and our design for the Jubilee Street development and the new Central Library with Bennetts Associates, now being built, was widely supported even by conservation groups such as the Regency Society. This was after a long history of opposition by the local community to previous schemes, not dissimilar perhaps to the West Pier saga.
Our unsuccessful entry for the original West Pier design competition, also with Bennetts, aimed again at just such a fusion of contemporary and historic architecture. It was subsequently adopted by the Save Our Seafront campaign as a more appropriate and sympathetic solution in opposition to the locally unpopular winning design by KSS.
I believe our approach, ably championed by my colleague Nick Lomax, based on a sustainable use for the pier and a smaller landside development, was the result of a deeper understanding of the local economy and the unique historic architecture of the seafront. The restoration of the pier was the sole object of the project and as such we believe that our proposal offers a financially viable opportunity, combining restoration with high-quality, appropriate and contemporary architecture reflecting both the city's youthful vitality and its cultural heritage.
Our landside proposal recognises the scale of the seafront and would create a place from which people could fully enjoy it. It was also intended to provide a platform for large-scale sculpture, symbolising the city's contemporary transformation.
In the light of the KSS/St Modwen scheme's need for additional funds, which has led to HLF's withdrawal, it is surely time to accept that this was not, as was claimed, the only show in town and serious consideration should at last be given to a scheme backed by a very competent local team, and the local community.
Mike Hymas, director, Lomax Cassidy & Edwards, Brighton