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The Gallery | Hidden challenges at prize-winning pier

Engineering firm Ramboll has revealed the challenges behind the regeneration of Hastings Pier, which has won the prestigious 2017 Stirling Prize.

The team behind the East Sussex pier won the architectural prize for the restoration of the neglected structure. Architecture firm dRMM designed the community-led revamp, which was part-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It was engineered by Ramboll, who had already carried out structural assessment work on the pier when a fire destroyed 95% of the its superstructure in 2010.

Since then Ramboll has helped to turn the 272m long pier into a flexible space for events. It will also be used as a music venue as it was when first built in 1872. Rather than recreating the Victorian pier, the fire demanded a change in thinking as to how to regenerate it.

“I think it strikes out as being a model for sustainable development of piers rather than saying ‘oh, we just have to keep mending it as normal’ because that’s what the heritage constraints impose on us” said Ramboll director for marine and energy infrastructure Nick Clarke.

A major challenge was keeping the pier intact while the work was carried out: while the cast iron piles remained undamaged and were kept, much of the original structure was beyond repair and extremely delicate.

“The biggest challenge was trying to stop the whole thing falling down before we’d fixed it,” said Clarke.

To mitigate this fragility the team had to be careful not to put too much stress on the pier. Jack-up barges were considered as they would have allowed the team to keep off the structure, but this method was too expensive. It would also have been dangerous to use jack-up barges in the stormy conditions when 6-7m high waves occurred.

Instead smaller tools were used such as spider cranes and other lightweight cranes, which could travel out onto the safer parts of the pier and lift modularised trusses into place.

To avoid future damage to the pier, fuse points were created. A fuse creates weak points in a structure which snap, for example in a violent storm, creating a sacrificial section while leaving the remaining part of the pier intact.

Old timbers from the original pier and other sustainable materials were used in benches and buildings on the structure. As well as winning the Stirling Prize, the project also won the public vote with 42% backing the pier.

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