The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced the winner of this year's Stirling Prize, the UK's most prestigious architecture award. London-based dRMM architects got the nod for its excellent work on Hastings Pier: a flexible public space in East Sussex that involved rebuilding a 19th Century pier previously damaged by fire.
The original Hastings Pier first opened back in 1872, proving to be a popular destination for families. It has also hosted high-profile acts over the years, like the Rolling Stones, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and the Sex Pistols. During World War II, it served as a training area for troops.
Following a period of neglect, the pier closed due to storm damage, then a major fire all but destroyed it in 2010. However, locals rallied around and raised money to save it, even going so far as to convince 3,000 shareholders to buy a stake in the pier at £100 (roughly US$133) a share.
dRMM architects took a contemporary, less-is-more approach to the project. Rather than the busy collection of huts and small buildings one might expect to find on a British pier, visitors are greeted with a large open space and the focus is firmly on the view of the English Channel.
With only two permanent buildings, the pier's vast open deck serves as a flexible area suitable for large-scale concerts, temporary markets, and public gatherings.
The pier's structural iron supports, hidden from view below deck, have been restored and strengthened. A surviving building was turned into an open plan café-bar, while a new timber-clad visitors center was constructed in the middle of the pier. The visitor's center includes a viewing point and is clad in reclaimed wood that's visibly scorched, providing a nice visual connection to its history.
Reclaimed timber was also used to make the pier's new furniture and was manufactured as part of a local employment initiative. This really is a project that benefits the entire community.
"Hastings Pier is a masterpiece of regeneration and inspiration," says RIBA President and RIBA Stirling Prize Jury Chair, Ben Derbyshire. "The architects and local community have transformed a neglected wreck into a stunning, flexible new pier to delight and inspire visitors and local people.
Hastings Pier showcases the remarkable skills, tenacity and problem-solving flair of its talented architects, dRMM. It also rewards the patrons of this great architectural achievement: the local people who have taken the initiative, and risk, to create this highly innovative and extraordinary new landmark. I am delighted to award the 2017 RIBA Stirling Prize to the people's pier."