Brighton’s i360: One Tower, One Team
On the UK’s south coast, last Thursday saw a major new milestone in the progress of Brighton’s newest attraction, the £46 million i360 observation tower.
The popular seaside resort’s striking new tourist landmark has been designed by David Marks and Julia Barfield – the husband and wife team who brought us the iconic London Eye (which is now the most visited paid-for attraction in the UK).
The first of the 17 top-grade stainless steel ‘cans’ that will form the tower arrived by barge from Holland on Thursday and Friday last week. The barge was beached on Brighton’s pebbled shoreline by tugs, and the cans were then lifted onto site by a towering 100m crane. The stacking of the cans will begin on Monday 15 June.
WAN’s Editor-in-Chief, Michael Hammond, spoke to David and Julia to find out how the experience of designing the London Eye was the inspiration behind the creation of Brighton’s new ‘vertical pier’. The i360 will be Britain’s highest observation tower outside London and the world’s first vertical cable car when it is completed in 2016.
Michael asks the architects what kept them going during the tough times (‘perseverance’ or ‘bloody-mindedness’ depending on which one replies). David speaks of how working very closely with engineers ‘runs through the DNA of the practice’ and the vital importance of a strong team to keep things moving forward positively – ‘one tower, one team; one team, one tower’. Jacobs is the structural engineer on the i360 team, Hollandia is manufacturer of the cans, and Poma designed the pod. All previously worked on the London Eye project with Marks Barfield.
But first here’s the background on i360 in brief. Situated on the very site where the historic but now defunct West Pier used to make land, the 162m-high observation tower will offer spectacular views out over the city and the UK’s south coast from a circular pod which will rise up the slim central tower to a height of 138 metres and back to ground level over a duration of 40 minutes. The pod will hold up to 200 people at a time.
The progress of the i360 has sometimes been mired in controversy and opposition, largely because the West Pier was such a well-loved Brighton institution. Already falling into severe disrepair, in more recent years it was wrecked by two fires and heavy storms. Many locals felt money should have gone to reinstating the pier rather than creating the i360.
However, English Heritage has deemed the old pier beyond rescue, and now, nine years since planning was granted by Brighton and Hove City Council in 2006, the i360 is finally due to come out of the ground next week on Monday 15th June.
Listen now to WAN’s ShopTalk podcast to hear more of the i360’s remarkable story from its architects….