Burrell Foley Fischer are leading a design team for the restoration and reconstruction of a kiosk at Brighton West Pier.
The West Pier kiosk is the sole surviving complete element from the original pier and is the world’s oldest surviving pleasure pier building. The kiosk was recovered from the pier in the 1990s and West Pier Trust wishes to restore and reconstruct this exquisite cast iron building on the newly landscaped lower promenade and close to the BAi360, West Pier site and West Pier Centre. Although the kiosk is the single surviving building from the 1866 pier, originally it was one of six identical buildings sited in pairs along the deck of the pier. At the time, they were the largest pier buildings to have been constructed.
When rebuilt the octagonal kiosk will be over 8m in diameter and, including its ornate cupola, nearly 10m high. The kiosks were the first specifically designed pier buildings to be constructed of decorative cast iron. Nothing like them had been seen before. Contemporary commentators struggled to describe them. ‘Ornamental houses’ was the best they came up with; and it was some time before they became known as kiosks - a new exotic word in the 1860s from the Persian meaning palace or pavilion. From its West Pier origins, Seaside Orientalism appeared around Britain’s coasts and across the seas to other countries.
The dismantled kiosk has been moved to a secure space where the preliminary work necessary to understand the challenges of restoration and the most appropriate methods to use, is taking place. All the components have been identified and tagged and expert engineering consultants are undertaking initial assessment of the cast-iron sections. An architectural paint investigation has been commissioned. The report has revealed that beneath twenty layers of paint applied to the kiosk since 1866, its original livery was light cream with details picked out in red-brown.
A precise site for the location of the restored kiosk has been identified. Brighton & Hove City Council has given planning approval for the restored kiosk to form the eastern element of the recently landscaped piazza on the lower promenade east of BAi360. The kiosk will be adjacent to the West Pier Centre, sited in one of the rebuilt seafront arch units, in view of the ruined skeleton of the pier-head theatre and next to the recently installed golden spiral made of reclaimed West Pier columns.
The restored kiosk will have remarkable architectural and historical significance. However, in renewing the kiosk WPT does not simply wish to celebrate the past but also intends to use this exceptional architectural survival to enrich the present and the future. The Trust plans to use the kiosk as the home for Britain’s first Seaside Learning Centre, building on and expanding our long-established programme of activities, talks, lectures, guided tours and exhibitions for both adults and children.
Internally the kiosk will be a flexible space suitable for workshops, lectures and exhibitions and provide an innovative learning space designed to increase peoples’ enjoyment, understanding and knowledge of the seaside and coastal environment. For example, the programme might on the one hand include an historical look at the ‘invention’ of the idea of The Seaside in the nineteenth century; while on the other it might investigate the value of off-shore wind-farms and the impact of rising sea levels in the twenty-first century. It would also respond to the seasonal requirements of the city: offering gallery and performance space during the Brighton Festival, Punch and Judy workshops during the summer, a base for photographic studies of the pier head ruin and the starling murmuration in the winter.
BFF’s team includes John Burrell, whose association with the Pier goes back to his student days when he prepared measured drawings of the kiosks and the entire pier which are now deposited with the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments, and Faye Davies, whose Conservation Architecture Diploma was on the life and works of Eugenius Birch, the designer of Brighton West Pier.
Learn more about West Pier here.