dRMM co-founder Alex de Rijke has hit out at moves to turn education and interpretation spaces on the practice’s Stirling Prize-winning revamp of Hastings Pier into an amusement arcade
The architect said the plans to give over half of the attraction’s 396m2 visitor centre to slot machines was ‘inviting children to learn to gamble in the dark’.
Controversial pier owner Abid Gulzar last week secured planning consent from Hastings Borough Council for the conversion of the building into a ‘family entertainments centre’ despite receiving more than 30 letters of objection.
The rejuvenated seaside attraction was hailed as an exemplar of community-focused regeneration when it scooped British architecture’s most prestigious award in 2017.
But tensions have been escalating since Gulzar – nicknamed Goldfinger because of his penchant for the precious metal – bought the asset from administrators last year.
Shortly after installing mini gold hippopotamuses on its wooden walkway, Gulzar closed the pier for several months over the winter.
De Rijke has previously said that the practice’s cherished redesign of the pier was based on replacing an ‘outdated amusement arcade model’ with the principle of community-owned public space.
He told the AJ this week: ‘Hastings Pier Visitor Centre was paid for by Heritage Lottery, whose criteria was that the building be used for education.
‘The building is all about space, light, views and social inspiration. Its conversion to slot machine arcades is inviting children to learn to gamble in the dark.
Facebook users voiced their dismay at the plans.
‘Gulzar has no imagination and can only think of installing what piers have been used for in the past,’ said one. ‘Victorian tearoom next I suppose.’
Another added: ‘I’m so fed up about this. The pier is so beautiful and he all he wants to put on it is tacky stuff that belongs in the 70s.’
No objections to the arcade plans were received from Historic England, Natural England or the council’s conservation officer. But 34 local objection letters were received along with two of support.
Planning officers recommended approval and councillors voted in favour.
In an interview with the Guardian earlier this year, while the pier was closed for repairs and improvements, Gulzar hit out at residents who, he said, wanted ‘everything for free’.
‘I will make sure this pier will be one of the best,’ he said. ‘The most important thing is to get on with this work. I will do everything right. I love Hastings, it’s one of the best seafronts, but it should improve.’