Its pier has been the pride of Southend since 1835 – it is over two kilometres long and, of its type, it is one of the longest in the world. By gathering forces through an international architecture competition, the borough council wanted to produce a proposal to breathe new life into and around the pier.The aim was to have a modern attraction with an environmental profile, which can both attract visitors and create a sense of pride among the town's inhabitants.
Winner is White Arkitekter with ‘Sculpted by Wind and Wave’ which proposes a meeting place for tourists and residents with restaurant, café, cultural centre with studios, exhibitions, film shows, live performances and events. Top of the bill is an open-air theatre accommodating an audience of 500 sitting in the lee of the wind under an open sky with the sea all around and the coastline as a backdrop. The new pier head can be seen as the starting signal for the transformation of the entire pier, from one oblong entertainment space to a living urban thoroughfare.
The whole project has been integrated into the scenery at the location. The structural elements have borrowed their shape from the waves of the sea, and the three elements have been arranged to give the best possible shelter and view.
The maritime environment is challenging for most traditional building materials. The proposal rests on a far-reaching sustainability philosophy, with natural materials (timber, Cor-Ten steel and glass) that will withstand the tough climate, removing any need for maintenance. All buildings are being made energy-efficient with renewable energy, wind power, heating from the sea water – all to guarantee a carbon-neutral environment.