A Massive Proposal To Turn A Florida Pier Into A Floating Urban Park
A clean energy-powered concrete canopy with curving walkways and an underwater reef has won an international design competition to replace an aging pier in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The concept, by L.A. starchitect Michael Maltzan and Oakland-based Tom Leader Studio (the landscape architects behind this great railroad park in Birmingham), is expected to supplant the funky inverted pyramid (some say eyesore) that has presided over St. Peteâ€™s waterfront for nearly four decades. The pyramid sits atop a pier that has declined in recent years. Rather than shell out for a retrofit, the city wants something fresh that can â€œredefine what the [pier] should be, and give it a new identity within the framework of an evolving downtown edge.â€
That new identity isâ€¦ well itâ€™s tough to pin down, even for the architects. In documents, they compare it to everything from â€œa magnifying glass on the waterâ€ to â€œwaves or sailsâ€ to â€œa crown on the eastern horizonâ€ to â€œa living roomâ€ to â€œa lens,â€ which also happens to be the proposalâ€™s name. However you describe it, The Lens has several key features, which suggest that it wonâ€™t be just another unsavory side effect of Floridaâ€™s addiction to development:
Looping pathways give pedestrians, cyclists, and runners a greater medley of outdoor experiences than a traditional â€œwalk-the-plankâ€-style boardwalk. Thereâ€™s even room for a tram.
Rejuvenating aquatic life
Remains of the old pier form the basis of a new reef. Visible to the public, itâ€™s designed to help regenerate surrounding sea life with a 2.5-acre oyster habitat thatâ€™s big enough to clean 20 million gallons of sea water a day.
Connection to the city
The design spills out onto the mainland with a lawn, a promenade, and other amenities to emphasize the relationship between the city and the pier.
Wind turbines, PV panels, and rainwater collection systems count among the proposed methods for powering the new pier. As for that magnifying glass/ wave/ sail/ crown/ living room/ lens: Itâ€™s a canopy embedded with micro-turbines and shaped to maximize wind-energy production.
Rather than build more, I wonder if it’d be better just to try to improve what we currently have. At the moment, I favor conservation versus expansion. I also question how well it will stand up to hurricanes. Read more about the project here.