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Walk on air – Brighton’s new Vertical Promenade Pier

Fiona Mckay

AIA UK is delighted to have supported a sold out lecture entitled “Walk on air – Brighton’s new Vertical Promenade Pier”. The joint AIA, RIBA, IStructE event took place on Tuesday the 18th of October 2016 at the RIBA’s Jarvis Auditorium. The focus of the talk was the recently completed British Airways i360 (BAi360) in Brighton, the world’s tallest moving observation tower. David Marks and Julia Barfield of Marks Barfield Architects and Dr John Roberts of Jacobs explained the thinking behind its concept, design, engineering and construction.  

It is thought that this was only the second time Architects and Engineers have shared the platform at RIBA to talk jointly about a project. Julia Barfield referred to the collaboration as a “great example of the symbiotic relationship between Architecture and Engineering”. Building on the success of the London Eye, the BAi360 is an ambitious project which aims to offer a unique visitor experience. Standing at the foot of what used to be the West Pier, the tower is almost exactly half as high as the pier was long. Just as the original pier welcomed Victorian society to ‘walk on water’, the new attraction invites visitors to gain a different perspective on the city and ‘walk on air’. This is achieved with a state of the art glass pod which can accommodate up to 200 people. The pod ascends to a height of 138 metres, offering slowly unfolding 360-degree views over Brighton and Hove, the South Downs, the South Coast and the Channel. At the landward end of the pier, two existing Victorian cast iron tollbooths, designed by Eugenius Birch, were restored to their former glory.

The tower’s unprecedented slender ratio of 1:41 meant that Engineers had to push the boundaries of what is structurally possible, overcoming challenges such as wind forces and turbulence. The talk featured construction photos and videos from the steel manufacturing and the construction sequence. The tower was constructed from the ground by jacking-up the 17 steel cans, which make up the 162 m tower, one under the other starting from the top. This avoided work at height and was the safest way of building.

The entrepreneurial approach behind the development allowed Marks Barfield to ensure that the project gives back to the city with 1% of ticket sales going back into the local community in perpetuity.

The talk concluded with a Q&A session followed by drinks reception.

1.5 CES Credits were available for attending the talk. 

Author: Yevgeniy Beylkin 

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