St. Pete Pier Design Finalists

By on December 12, 2011.

St. Petersburg, Florida held a competition to redesign their beloved, antiquated inverted pyramid pier, built in 1973. Since last August the jury has narrowed the submissions to three finalists: “The Wave” from BIG Architects, “The People’s Pier” by West8, and “The Lens” by Michael Maltzan Architecture and Tom Leader Studio (LA’s).

BIG Architects (Bjarke Ingels Group) from Denmark, with offices in New York, have impressed us with another BIG idea for the St. Pete Pier. Their submission is titled The Wave. The design of the pier outshines the other two submissions but has fallen flat in addressing the coastal habitat and landside development. The iconography of the structure immediately grabs at you, but the scale and artistic presence of the loop may be overwhelming and ostentatious for some Floridians, even in progressive St. Pete.


This scheme  places the emphasis on the pier, or ‘wavewalk’  and the terminal ‘wave’, The pier hosts the swimming pools and boat and canoe launch zones, sunbathing, and tram drop off. The loop houses a myriad of uses and commercial areas including bath houses, indoor wave machines, concert plaza, viewing balconies, exhibition halls, rock climbing and several dining options from intimate to banquets.

The possibility of so many programs will bring the most users to the pier and entice private businesses, but it may come at a cost. While they bring attraction, they also call for high overhead and even higher ongoing maintenance for the life of the pier.  The presentation and graphic design impresses me the most with strong and simple visual images that intuitively inform.

Cost: The conceptual estimate come in at $62 Million, 50M for over water and 12M for landside construction. This suprised me at first, but upon analysis, the cost calls out only exterior construction of the loop and does not include an estimate for proposed uses, which may add up to an additional $50M.

All above image credits via: BIG Architects


West8      is a firm emerging at the forefront of design. Based in Rotterdam, Netherlands, with offices in Toronto and New York.  Their designs are being completed in contemporary cities across the world, more recently in North and South America.

West8’s design focuses on the basin and ecological structure of the new park connecting to the pier. The estuarine zone, where fresh waters meet salt, is in the anterior of The People’s Pier submission. By utilizing coastal habitat, the goal is to bring active interaction to the waterfront while preserving the Tampa Bay estuary and increasing biotype with mangrove restoration.

The Eye  lies at the end of the People’s Pier and frankly may be a bit understated. Programmed use is strictly for observation, small dining and exhibitions. The pier walk lacks interaction with the water and excitement of arrival that the other submissions offer.

With those qualms aside, West8 seems to be the most cost efficient and environmentally healthy option for the city. The pier construction is also practical and addresses the harsh climate on the coast, which will score them points with concerned locals.

Cost: Total for all phases and beach re nourishment, $94M.

All above image credits via: West8


Michael Maltzan Architecture, Los Angeles, CA  and Tom Leader Studio, San Francisco submitted The Lens. The Lens combines an ecologically sensitive approach to the waterfront with the monolithic proportions of the pier’ terminus.

The plan includes The Hub, where markets, permanent commercial tenants, drop-off areas, underground parking and event ampitheater links the downtown welcome mat to the overwater Lens. The north arm of the hub is a freshwater water park where cisterns and artesian flows are used to feed the waterpark while circulating and purifying for reuse. The beach zone also lies near the hub and includes flotillas with circulating salt pools, kayak rentals, and sunbathing floats.

Coming in with the highest budget, The Lens offers a blend of ecology, art, and sustainability. The shape offers legibility to the user and the ability to pierce through the elliptic layers of concrete cast. The pier is indicative of sails and skylines from the water and the inside  accommodates habitat at  different depths of water.  Oyster beds help cleanse toxins from downtown runoff.

What is most impressive in the submission is the focus on sustainable energy. A desalinization plant is proposed to coincide with water harvesting. The lens and energy islands are equipped with wind turbines, photovoltaics, and solar thermal energy that claims net zero energy results and eventually an energy feedback to the city for a sustainable future.

Cost: $140M for all structures, including the energy options.

All above image credits via: Michael Maltzan Architecturue

Landscape Invocation strives not just to update our readers, but to analyze the organization, graphics, budgets, and feasibility’s associated with the burgeoning practice of landscape architecture. Luckily, we are able to do just that with the full submission materials by each design firm available to the public by the City of St. Petersburg, Florida, located here.

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