Walking tall: Hastings pier wins the Stirling architecture prize

Nicknamed the Plank, de Rijke Marsh Morgan’s stark wooden wonder – using timber reclaimed from previous fires – was praised for changing ‘the idea of what architecture is’

‘This pier,” said the Earl of Granville, when he opened Hastings Pier in 1872, “appears to me to be a peerless pier – a pier without a peer – except, perhaps, the unfortunate peer who is now addressing you.” Now, 145 years on, after a chequered life of spectacular fires and reincarnations of mixed success, Hastings Pier has once again been declared peerless – as the winner of the 2017 RIBA Stirling prize for the best building in the UK.

The structure is a far cry from the elaborate confection that impressed the Earl, a classic piece of seaside Victoriana designed by pier supremo Eugenius Birch, encrusted with twinkling lights and crowned with a Moorish pavilion. Instead, visitors to the seaside town are greeted by a stark wooden deck thrust out over the sea. Nicknamed The Plank, it eschews the usual kiss-me-quick seaside clutter (plenty of which can be found further along the beach), in favour of a neutral platform to host a range of different activities. Well supplied with electricity and other services, it is a blank canvas for the lively programme of bouncy castles, carousels and concerts. When not in festive mode, it is a powerful expanse, a place that is free to enter where you can hover above the water, inhale the sea air and take in the epic views.

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