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Urban Splash seeks architect to overhaul Weston-super-Mare pier

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Urban Splash has launched an unusual international competition to find an architect to mastermind the transformation of a Victorian pier in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.

The developer wants to overhaul the crumbling 150-year-old Birnbeck Pier, which leads out to Birnbeck Island, and convert it into a 'fantastic new destination'.

Working alongside North Somerset Council, Birnbeck Pier Regeneration Trust and the Prince's Regeneration Trust, Urban Splash hopes the contest will attract design teams from around the world capable of dreaming up 'new attractions and facilities to draw more residents, workers and tourists' to the pier.

Completed in 1866 and designed by prolific pier builder Eugenius Birch, the steel and wood structure has had a rollercoaster history.

In its early years the pier was the main drop-off point for thousands of passengers disembarking from paddlesteamers which had crossed the Bristol Channel from Wales.

Since then it has welcomed the military, and even the Beatles, and for the last 125 years has been the only means of reaching the lifeboat station based on Birnbeck Island.

Recently, the pier has begun to disintegrate, and ambitious plans - unveiled by property developer James Scott two years ago - to convert the former attraction into an ice rink, residential development and marina came to nothing.

Now Urban Splash has taken on the challenge, assembling an impressive judging panel for the two-stage RIBA-organised competition.

Among the jury's big names are Will Alsop, ex-RIBA president George Ferguson, and former English Heritage chair Neil Cossons.

The deadline for first-round submissions is 9 November 2007. The judges will then select a shortlist of six entrants, who will be invited back for second-stage interviews.

Urban Splash intends to invite local people to comment on the shortlist and their views will be fed back to the judges. It is expected that a winner will be announced in early 2008.

Further information is available at www.birnbeck-island.co.uk

by Richard Waite

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