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Julia Barfield MD Marks Barfield Architects

Project: i360, Brighton, UK


Julia Barfield has told CLAD that the British Airways i360 ‘vertical pier’ that opened in Brighton, UK in August, could be replicated elsewhere.

“We’re open to suggestion, put it that way,” she said. “This is certainly the first of these towers but it might not be the last. A future model likely would not be identical – I’m a true believer in making the projects fit their context. We would have to adapt it for its surroundings. This fits the West Pier (in Brighton, UK) nicely but you would have to consider particularly the base building and how it sits. Future iterations would be designed to be bespoke to their surroundings.”

Designed by Marks Barfield Architects, the British Airways i360 is the world’s first vertical cable car, tallest moving observation tower and most slender tower. It sits on the foundation of Brighton’s former Victorian-era West Pier, which was destroyed by an arson attack in March 2003.

“When the West Pier was built and when the Palace Pier was built, there was a sort of rivalry between them,” said Barfield,. “It was all about enjoying the view back to Brighton as much as enjoying the air and the promenade. This is really a vertical way of replicating that.

“We wanted a small space with a great view and this was the way to do that,” she continued. “The footprint of the tower itself is 3.9m (12.8ft) in diameter. The pod for this tower is at the limit of what a tower this size can take, with 200 people able to board at one time.”

Marks Barfield worked on the project with constructor Hollandia, local engineers Mackley Construction, pod-maker Poma-Sigma and Italian glassmaker Sunglass. The i360 cost £42.2m (US$56.2m, €50.3m) to develop, funded in-part by a £36.2m (US$48.2m, €43.1m) government loan.

During each ‘flight’, passengers board the pod – similar in style to that of the London Eye but on a significantly larger scale – and take a 20 minute journey for unobstructed views of Brighton and the surrounding areas, with views stretching for miles on a clear day. A single-storey visitor centre has been incorporated into the foot of the tower design, which includes a 400-seat restaurant, conference and exhibition space, a shop and children’s play facilities.

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