Kate Jordan argues that prize winning Hastings Pier is a tangible glimpse of an optimistic future where local communities and councils collaborate with the best designers to produce a new kind of heritage, relevant to our time.
If the Stirling Prize is a barometer of prevailing winds in architecture then last year’s winner, Hastings Pier, suggests a sober outlook. This stark, timber structure, designed to replace the original Victorian pier, which was destroyed by fire in 2010, is far cry from the ‘starchitect’ designed winners of previous years. Indeed, it would be hard to find more contrasting buildings than Hastings Pier and Foster's ‘Gherkin’ which picked up the prize in 2004. If the high production values of early 2000’s prize-winners trumpeted economic confidence and rejoiced in cutting-edge technology, what does the decidedly low-tech, plain-speaking Hastings Pier tell us about the current climate? And what does it say about the changing role of the architect?