The i360: Sauron’s Trojan Horse

An artist's impression of the completed i360
An artist’s impression of the completed i360

A week or so back I realised I could see the i360 from my flat. When I mentioned it on Twitter, a friend said that its red light reminded them of the eye of Sauron. And there is something oppressive about the way it overlooks everything.

I’ve written a lot about the i360 over the years (see here and here). I try not to resent the project but given the disruption to the seafront, the decay of the Terraces and the associated development, I really wish it wasn’t going ahead.

Scribe tweeted me a recent celebratory article from the Guardian which talks up the project and its organisers. As the piece points out, the i360 probably will make a profit (see my discussion of the Council’s loan document). The piece goes on to acclaim it as an exciting development, linking it to the Pavilion and the West Pier itself. The article claims that most people are in favour, but there is something bullying about the tone:

It will loom over the seafront, more or less where Brighton meets Hove, and nobody in either town will be able to ignore it… It seems presumptuous to give a quarter of a million people a new symbol that they didn’t ask for, but that is unavoidably what’s happening, which makes the emotional stakes extremely high.

Rachel Clark of the West Pier Trust is quoted as saying that “far more people… are in favour of it than against”, which is fair enough. Most people I’ve met have a weary contempt or make jokes about its ridiculous phallic nature. As to Clark’s claim that the i360 will transform Brighton, “putting it absolutely fairly and squarely back on the map as an exciting, glamorous and daring place to be”? I wasn’t aware the town at any risk of disappearing from the map.

At the same time as the i360 goes up, the old Concorde/Sea-life development remains a ghost town, although there is a new scheme to do something with it. Further East, the ‘artist’s quarter’ near the Concorde 2 is being evacuated as sections of Madeira Terrace are close to collapse. Estimates of the cost of repair are eye-wateringly (fantastically?) high. All the focus on the i360 draws attention away from the very serious neglect of other parts of the seafront.

As much as I resent the i360 for disrupting the flow and calm of a massive area of seafront, I am most concerned about the scale of the associated development. I’d always imagined it being a tower with ticket/waiting area. But there is also a restaurant, as well as a 1000-person conference center. This sounds like a large development, and I find myself wondering if the i360 is little more than a way of redeveloping an area of the seafront. Is there additional development to come? And, if the tower should be removed in the future, will this new development be left behind?

The slow, sad demolition of the West Pier

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The West Pier trust continues to oversee the  demolition of the West Pier with the removal of the pillars on the beach. As the Trust’s web pages point out, their aims no longer include any form of restoration of the pier. Instead their focus is “to preserve and enhance for the public benefit the area comprising the Pier” – which, for them, involves building the i360. The idea of a new pier is roundly rejected as impossible. The West Pier Trust is now, effectively, working for the area’s redevelopment, pushing for an expensive and unloved attraction in place of the pier.

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This latest act of demolition was announced in the Argus on Friday 30th May, with the work due to start on the Monday – leaving no chance for people to respond or object. The columns on the beach are to be “removed, stored and reused as part of a landscaping project in conjunction with the area’s redevelopment alongside the i360”.

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For me, the saddest thing about this is that the columns on the beach were loved just as they were. In particular, they were used to practise slack-lining. It was wonderful to sit in the sun and watch.

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We seem to have major problems with Brighton seafront, with a whole section of raised promenade near the Concorde inaccessible and falling down. The reconstruction of the old Concorde club is a disaster, with most of the buildings left empty for years. And now, an aspect of the seafront that people loved and used is being removed. Sometimes I think the regeneration takes no account of how people actually  enjoy and use the seafront.