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Competition: Southend Pier Pavilion

Southend Pier Cultural Centre by White Arkitekter
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Southend-on-Sea Borough Council is seeking an architect to design a landmark £6.3 million pavilion on its famous pier

The winner of the estimated £250,000 contract will deliver a new cultural and leisure facility at the landside northern end of the Essex town’s Grade II-listed structure, which at 2.16km is the longest recreational pier in the world.

The project, which is planned to complete in 2020, comes five years after White Arkitekter completed a competition-winning 350m² cultural centre at the far end of the pier, around 1.9km from the latest contest site.

In its brief, the council say it is ‘seeking to bring together an experienced and appropriately qualified architect-led design team with outstanding design and detailing skills to take forward the development of a pavilion to the pier deck that creates an iconic destination for the residents of Southend.

‘A feasibility study has already been completed to provide a new iconic destination place on the pier deck that encourages existing visitors and new visitors to reach a new demographic area. The vision is to create a new pavilion that is respectful of the heritage of the Grade II-listed pier and is contemporary in its approach.’

Southend Pier was originally built from timber in 1829 when the town was rapidly growing as a popular seaside resort. It was rebuilt in iron in 1889, and features a narrow-gauge single-track railway along its entire length.

The structure was commandeered by the Royal Navy during the Second World War, and was struck by a series of fires which wrecked its original landside pavilion and a bowling alley replacement during the latter half of the 20th century.

Recent additions have included an RNLI lifeboat station and a landside pier head. Sweden’s White Arkitekter and UK-based Sprunt Architects won an international contest for a new cultural centre at the southernmost part of the pier in 2009. The building, which hosts art exhibitions and performances for up to 185 people, opened in 2012.

The new pavilion will be constructed on a large open space known as the ‘bowling deck’, located a short distance from Western Esplanade and the popular Adventure Island theme park. A high-level walkway connects the site to the seafront promenade, a pedestrianised high street and Southend Central Train Station.

Proposals for the new low-energy and sustainable structure will be expected to generate revenue for the council, create local employment, and reflect the pier’s history as an important centre for pleasure and entertainment. The scheme must also be fully accessible and feature robust materials suitable for a marine setting.

The deadline for applications is 5pm, 30 May.

How to apply

View the contract notice for more information

Contact details

Gillian Shine
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
Civic Centre
Victoria Avenue
Southend-on-Sea
SS2 6YL

Tel: +44 1702215436
Email: gillianshine@southend.gov.uk

Q&A: Scott Dolling, director of culture, tourism and property at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council

Scott Dolling

Scott Dolling

Scott Dolling

What is your vision for the pier pavilion?

Our vision is to create a new pavilion that is respectful of the heritage of the Grade II listed Pier and is contemporary in its approach. We wish to provide a mix of cultural, leisure and related uses that broadens the offer from that of traditional seaside entertainment to also provide a cultural experience for residents and visitors.

The Council also seeks to:

  • Gain commensurate revenue income against its investment
  • Create substantial employment opportunities for residents of the area
  • Build on the history of the Pier as a place for pleasure and entertainment; follow the principles of low energy and sustainable design
  • Create an inclusive environment with the aim of access for all
  • Provide a robust design that adopts materials appropriate for the marine and coastal environment within the Thames Estuary, and
  • Ensure sensitive development within the RAMSAR setting.

The contest site is approximately 1,750sqm and the main constraints of the project relate to Southend Pier being a Grade II listed Victorian Structure located within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Ramsar site. The Pier must also be kept operational and open to the public throughout construction.

Architectural innovation will be an important consideration. Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has a strong track record for selecting bold, quality design, most notably with The Forum (a combined public and academic library in the town centre) and the Royal Pavilion at the sea end of the pier.

We are looking for a design which relates architecturally to the story of Southend and its pier more so than other emerging developments in the town.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

The project is small enough to be viable for smaller and emerging practices but large and creative enough to appeal to international architects. Indeed, the Royal Pavilion at the sea end of the Pier was awarded to Swedish practice, White. The key consideration is that they are able to design a distinctive structure that meets the brief on time and budget.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects be procured?

Other upcoming design opportunities within the Borough include the design of a new care home and day centre and a new town centre multi-storey car park. We are expecting further, predominantly private-sector led, opportunities to come forward within the Borough as a result of the emerging Southend Central Area Action Plan, which, once adopted, will influence future developments within the Southend Central and Seafront area.

We are also in the final stages of procuring a practice for the design of the Thames Estuary museum and expect to make the appointment in approximately six weeks.

Are there any other similar pier pavilion projects you have been impressed by?

We’re keeping an open mind and are not specifying any similar projects that we like or do not like. We do not want a copy-and-paste job of an existing structure, rather one that is inspired by and relates to the pier’s heritage and setting and is distinctively ‘Southend-on-Sea.’

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