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Portobello Pier concept treads new ground

June 4 2015

Portobello Pier concept treads new ground
Smith Scott Mullan Architects have unveiled concept designs for a 21st Century pier at Portobello, Edinburgh, a kite-flying initiative to see a contemporary take on the Victorian original, which burned down a century ago, ‘re-a-pier’.

Commissioned by Big Things on the Beach, a charity promoting public art in Portobello, the walkway could double as a performance and events space off Pipe Street, offering beachgoers enhanced facilities such as a café, meeting rooms and sports facilities, one of a number

The vision is intended to spark a debate about maximising leisure and cultural opportunities along the seafront with the charity investigating the viability of a number of ‘significant developments; along the waterfront.

SSM associate Graham Acheson, himself a trustee of the arts body, commented: “The overall plan is for something iconic and contemporary. I think it’s one way of provoking conversation about that as a possible waterfront for the city – it’s about making the most of that as an asset.

“There are various organisations within Portobello that could make use of the pier. The initial feedback on the overall idea of improving the prom and possibly [building] a pier has been positive.”

Damian Killeen, from Big Things on the Beach, added: “I think there’s no doubt there would be strong support in Portobello and probably beyond for the idea of recreating a pier – especially a contemporary pier – something that would be a major visitor attraction.

 “From this point on, we will be looking at what the development possibilities are for some significant development on the promenade.”

It is hoped that backers can be found to make the concept a reality, including City of Edinburgh Council which owns the promenade.


#1 Posted by Rabbie on 4 Jun 2015 at 11:52 AM
Exciting! Looks very promising.
#2 Posted by Jacob on 4 Jun 2015 at 12:18 PM
Wonderful graphics. First Class.
#3 Posted by james on 4 Jun 2015 at 13:01 PM
I understand this is a 'concept' (or an open-ended means for public engagement with 2 images released), but in short, for a folly, this concept proposal lacks any coherent 'story', or reason for being there, metaphysical or otherwise.

To argue simply that there was a Victorian pier there 100 years before and that this is a 21st century 'replacement' is a bit pointless (the world has moved on since then). It'll need a great deal more substance and clarity to make Portobello an end-destination just like the wonderful Kelpies are outside Falkirk.

I mean, why the limp zig-zags? Where does that come from? What's that about? What's the story?

And then to argue that this new multi-functional pier will be this and that and the next thing will in no way be sufficient to draw the financial backing necessary and this 'concept' will remain just that, before it is papped-off to the cupboard for re-cycling paper. It's not understandable.

Would 'must try harder' be fair comment?

And lastly, can Architects please stop saying crap such as : “The overall plan is for something iconic and contemporary.'' It is embarrassing. Contemporary? This design was contemporary in 1922 -
and zaha Hadid has made her living from it ever since.

Such is meaningless waffle. I am missing BC.

Bill S
#4 Posted by Bill S on 4 Jun 2015 at 14:30 PM
Traditionally, an architectural folly was a very personal curio; an object onto which the creator could represent their personal and often self-centred ideas in a built form. Often wildly extravagant with no clear function, these forms, were deliberately designed pieces of "furniture" for their surroundings, regardless of whether they “fitted” in, that offered some form of rudimentary shelter. In this case, this pier is exactly that.

And that is no real issue as it is an exercise more in public discourse than anything else. It will be displayed in Portobello to generate discussion (as it has done) on whether a pier is really needed in the first place and I welcome the chance to view the presentation in person and consider them fully.

PS, contemporary just really means "of it's time" or "belonging to the present", so this piece of architecture is probably justly titled as contemporary, as it belongs to 2015 in being designed now, as much as an unrelated sculpture was considered contemporary in 1922.
#5 Posted by james on 6 Jun 2015 at 13:09 PM
Hi Bill,
My point is really that the visual language proposed is not 'contemporary' in that I find it 'historicist' if anything. I would also question its 'appropriateness' for a promenade stroll. Looking at the Vitra fire station by Zaha Hadid, (which used that expressionistic angular language 25 years ago) it is dynamic, it is the frozen sound fire engine klaxons going off and firemen hauling on protective gear. The architecture of the pier proposal creates an emotional state that says a 'mad dash' as opposed to a gentle walk.

On the irksome use of the word contemporary, to say that the manufacturing of Tiffany lamps 'today' is 'contemporary' would be untrue. I see this design as no more 'contemporary' than a Tiffany lamp. It is a tired word which has become clichéd and much mis-used.

Lastly, the Weimar monument illustration is related because it employed the same visual language as the proposed pier. However, that's as far as it goes. That dynamic language used for the memorial came from very specific violent circumstances, whereas the language used by these proposals is aesthetically artificial, there is nothing I can see or has been relayed to me through the press that justifies or generates this language and so it is an artifice. It has a tinny rattle. It is not true.

I still think back to the imagining board.
There is nothing wrong with the idea of a destination pier at all.
#6 Posted by Cadmonkey on 9 Jun 2015 at 00:10 AM
This is trying far to hard to be whaky and is actually counter productive.
A pier would be nice but this looks like a shopping centre.
Is there a technical reason it requires to rise above the prom level?
Traditional approach please.
#7 Posted by Red on 9 Jun 2015 at 14:31 PM
I attended the 'Imagine Portobello' day and this image was shown to help inspire us with ideas. Great to see the public engaging in discussions about Portobello, the town centre and the waterfront.

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