To see pictures of various piers, including our own, scroll through the gallery above. Graphics and additional reporting by Baktaash Sorkhabi.
The Olympics coming to the Los Angeles region has stirred both excitement and worry. On the former, the international stage that is hosting the Olympics brings the prestige, attention, and (sometimes) the investment a region yearns for.
For the City of Los Angeles, major concerns about public transit—which need to be massively upgraded to shuttle visitors and athletes across the region efficiently (not to mention, y’know, shuttling residents themselves officially outside the Olympics)—have arisen.
For the City of Long Beach, it comes down to the Belmont Veterans’ Memorial Pier
Located at toward the Western end of Belmont Shore and serving visitors and residents alike since 1915, the pier has shifted from strolling place for the wealthy on vacation (during its original incarnation in 1915) to a staple for working class families enjoying fishing along its 1,800-foot stretch into the Pacific (since its rehab in 1967).
The pier has been in dire need of support—long before the Olympics had a shimmering chance of appearing in 2028—and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia has noted that. Now, with the possibility of thousands invading the pier as the viewing platform for sailing come ’28, Garcia and City officials are wondering whether the $25 to $30M cost to retrofit should be replaced by an entirely new pier altogether.
As the city looks to make possible changes, we thought it would be best to showcase some modern pier designs from around the world that can serve as some inspiration for Long Beach—and, more importantly, urge officials to create an innovative and iconic public space that can be well-used beyond the Olympic games.
Kalvebod Bølge | Copenhagen, Denmark
The Kalvebod Brygge was Copenhagen’s urban response to its far more popular summer hangout, Islands Brygge. Beforehand, this urban space was a desolate, office-filled stretch of waterfront that had no appeal and no activity—odd considering directly nearby is the city’s Tivoli amusement park, said to be one of the original inspirations for Disneyland by Walt himself.
Centrally located along Copenhagen’s waterfront, this area was reconfigured by JDS Architects and includes their “pier,” the Kalvebod Bølge (or Kalvebod Wave), a multi-layered public space that includes places to layout, slides to crawl down in order to swim, and an overall modern aesthetic that is as cool as it is classic. The project was completed in 2010 and for less than $10M.
Hastings Pier | East Sussex, United Kingdom
The Hastings Pier is a divisive pier—and that’s why we’re including it.
The original pier was the treasure of East Sussex, filled with history as a pleasure pier where Victorian elite sunbathed (under their hats) and Englishmen faced the waters with their poles to gather whiting to eat later. Due to a teenage arson, the pier that was built 1872 was burned to the sand after decades of neglect and abuse had rendered it an eyesore more than a treasure.
Reopening in April 2016, the new pier had drawn the attention of architectural critics for its minimalist, sustainable design—even being shortlisted for the coveted Sterling Prize for best new architecture in the UK—while locals, well…
They dub it “The Plank”—a plank that cost over $20M.
Love it or hate it, the pier’s configuration represent a different way to look at how our spaces expand into the seas.
Navy Pier | Chicago, Illinois
Go big or go home—that is the philosophy behind all great things in Chicago, including its famed Navy Pier.
3,300 feet long, this north Chicago landmark stretches into Lake Michigan and was built in 1915. Throughout its history, its served as a place to go see the theater (complete with a 2,500-seat auditorium). Get your hair cut. Eat. Hell, even see a doctor. (Yes, it once hosted a hospital.) It served as a place of education for the University of Chicago.
As with all things with age, it began to lose its luster and prompted the city to reexamine its role in Chicagoan life. The redesign is anchored by a series of engaging social spaces, contemporary architecture, stunning water features, atmospheric lighting, amusements, and seasonal plantings. One of the more iconic features of the redevelopment of the pier is a curvilinear wall clad with metal louvers dubbed the “Wave Wall” that forms a sculpted staircase that visually connects visitors to Lake Michigan while also leading to an upper-level amusement park.
Los Muertos Pier | Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Make no mistake: this new pier—no rehab, just pure contemporary Mexican imagination at its finest in building something entirely unique—is one of the most gorgeous piers in the world, an impressive feat considering it was just completed in 2013.
Designed by famed Mexican architect José de Jesús Torres Vega, the pier is part of a revitalization process occurring across all of Mexico: as more Mexican families see kin bounce back and forth between American and Mexican life, an influx of visitors and investment make Mexico more travel friendly, safe, and desirable.
The pier is just one example of this.
Curvy, artful, and pure cultural Mexicana, the Los Muertos Pier is truly one of a kind that honors its the aura of its local vibe while enticing visitors old and new.
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