Birnbeck - Everything you need to know!

A FESTIVAL venue, hotel, houses or even an inhabitable mountain - what would you like to see at one of the town s most historic landmarks?

A FESTIVAL venue, hotel, houses or even an 'inhabitable mountain' - what would you like to see at one of the town's most historic landmarks?

The Weston & Somerset Mercury can this week exclusively bring you the images of the six short-listed designs for Birnbeck Pier and its island.

Manchester-based company Urban Splash, which bought the site and part of the surrounding land last year, organised a competition for people to come up with some bright ideas for developing the area.

A panel of judges has come up with the six designs they consider to be worthy enough to make it through to the final rounds of the contest.

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Some of the ideas selected for the deciding stages include creating:

* A 'Birnbeck Village' with a feature described as similar to that of Table Top Mountain in Cape Town.

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* A sustainable development, which uses its own resources for energy.

* Seaside holiday accommodation for all price ranges from expensive hotels to basic beach hut styles.

* A music venue for festivals and concerts.

* A new island called Pleasure Holm.

An exhibition of all the short-listed entries was held at the Winter Gardens. Members of the public will be able to go along and air their views on the designs.

Members of the judging panel, which decided on the six final designs, includes representatives from organisations like The Prince's Regeneration Trust, the South West Regional Development Agency (RDA), as well as North Somerset councillor Elfan Ap Rees, Birnbeck Pier Regeneration Trust and Friends of the Old Pier Society member Charles McCann and North Somerset Council's director of development and environment, David Turner.

The short-listed teams will be invited back for second stage interviews and people living in North Somerset will have the opportunity to comment on the finalists' designs. It is expected that an overall winner will be announced in the early months of 2008.

The winning designer will walk away with a prize of £25,000 and then will be paid a commission fee for their work, which could reach a figure of up to £1million.

The international architectural competition, which is being run in association with the Royal Institute of British Architects, was open to individuals and teams from anywhere in the world and designs can be purely residential, commercial or a combination of both.

What do you think of the designs? Log onto our website and join in our online forum discussions at

Birnbeck 1 - AOC Architecture, London - proposes Birnbeck Island could become an inhabitable mountain, a spectacularly 'natural' landmark.

The idea is that Birnbeck and its mountain, like Cape Town and its Table Mountain, would share views of each other and the development would have a range of places to live, work and enjoy, for locals and visitors.

The island would provide an exclusively inclusive destination hotel, offering everything from one-star cabins to five-star cliff top retreats.

On the mainland the village would offer a range of homes perched on the hillside.

This scheme includes a nightclub, theatre, casino, outward-bound centre, health spa and ballroom. Accommodation is made up of a 43-room hotel, self-service homes, villas, cabins and studios. The original clock tower and pavilion will be situated in the courtyard of the island. On the mainland, Birnbeck village will be made up of 190 homes: 46 one-bedroomed flats, 83 two-bedroomed flats, 13 two-bedroomed homes and 48 three-bedroomed homes.

Birnbeck 2 - FLACQ Architects, London - suggest a sustainable development using the site's natural resources to heat, cool, filter, cleanse and grow everything.

It could incorporate public spaces and a collection of markets, restaurants and bars, independent retailers and a music venue for festivals and concerts.

There would be seaside holidays available from boutique hotel rooms at 'The Lodge' and self-catering stays at the 'Bunk House' to back-to-basics at the 'Beach Hut'. The 'environmentally-friendly' scheme features a sustainable hotel known as an ecotel, along with ecology gardens, rock pools, reed beds and a sea pool. Other accommodation is made up of bunk houses, summer huts and floating sleep capsules. A music bowl, banquet hall, bars and a bistro will provide entertainment venues, along with the Birnbeck Bazaar, which will include tea rooms. On land, there will be earth-sheltered dwellings and terraced houses.

Birnbeck 3 - Levitate Architecture and Design Studio Ltd, London - proposes to reveal natural rock and create a 'complimentary alternative' to the town's busy seafront. It wants to build a place where people can explore rock pools, bird watch or simply sit and watch the sunset.

Historic buildings would be restored and two linear buildings would sit on retained concrete pads, elevated above the rock.

A range of residential leisure accommodation is suggested, while on the land a terrace of town houses will provide development revenue.

Visitors can explore rock pools, bird watch or sit and watch the sunset. The idea will feature a line of terraced houses plus leisure facilities. Accommodation will range from a 48-room hostel to a 28-suite boutique hotel. Other aspects include a gym, an events space, restaurants and cafes. The jetty and pier will be restored. On land, the residential development will be the equivalent of 90 apartments or 30 town houses.

Birnbeck 4 - MOH Architects, Vienna - wants to build an iconic development but says it wants the open space to become the icon itself, rather than the built space. They wants to 'work with the existing qualities of the site, the historic fabric and the subsequent size constraints'. Entertainment spaces will include a casino, restaurant, bars and a multi-functional hall. The roof space becomes a public space to be used for outdoor activities or for relaxing on a deck chair.

Birnbeck 5 - Pierre d'Avoine Architects / White Young Green Planning & Design, Cardiff - suggests making Birnbeck into a small island and renaming it Pleasure Holm, inspired by Steepholm and Flatholm.

The outside would look like a natural land formation and function as a habitat for flora and fauna.

Inside, there would be a range of uses - including luxurious flats.

The island is intended to provide a habitat for plants and animals on the outside and facilities and accommodation on the inside. The leisure deck will feature cafes and a pool, and visitors can also enjoy themselves at picnic spots. The accommodation will be made up of 200 flats over 20 floors with a hotel level on top. There will also be a place to stay for the native wildlife at the bird sanctuary.

Birnbeck 6 - Richards Partington Architects, London - wants to create a 'striking inhabited pier on the south of the island'.

A public space would integrate new buildings with the restored legacy of times past.

A series of terraced structures would connect the existing town with the new quarter and the island.

The existing buildings, which will be used as artist studios, the clock tower, landing point and lifeboat station will all remain as part of the scheme. The carbon-neutral dwellings will make this a sustainable development and the rock pools, islands and stepping stones along the low-level promenade will keep visitors close to the environment. On the mainland there will be three to five storey terraced houses.

WACKY, far-fetched and exciting were just some of the comments made about the proposed designs for Weston's Birnbeck Pier.

The town's residents had the chance to give their views on the six short-listed designs chosen as part of an international architecture competition put on by Urban Splash, the Manchester-based company that bought the site last year and the Royal Institute of British Architects.

The exhibition, held at the Winter Gardens on December 6-8 showed in detail each design and those attending were asked to say what they thought about them.

The next stage of the competition is for the finalists to be invited for second-stage interviews before the winner is decided.

The successful team, whose design will be used as the basis for the redevelopment, will be awarded £25,000 and will then be paid a commission fee, which could reach up to £1million.

It is expected the winners will be announced in the early months of 2008.

These comments were taken from people visiting the Winter Garden's exhibition on December 6:

Executive committee member for the South West for the National Piers Association, Mike Davies, said:

"The designs do seem a bit wacky. I like the one by Levitate Architecture the most. But it still doesn't really seem right for a site with an 1867 structure on it. I'm sure Urban Splash will like it because they could sell off the housing."

Pearl Jones, of Monkton Avenue, said:

"Some of the designs are over the top but it is very interesting to look at them. I like the sixth one the best and it is quite attractive but I think the white one is terrible."

Elaine Nott-Lloyd, from Milton, said:

"I think it's all very exciting and interesting, but some of them seem very impractical. Whichever design is chosen it will certainly put Weston on the map."

Marina Coles, of Shrubbery Terrace, Weston, said:

"I think they are all hideous and are all so big. I think developments like these are ruining Weston."

Pete Lomix of Whitecross Road, Weston, said:

"All the designs are very striking and I do really like the white design. It's very interesting. I would have thought which ever design is chosen it will probably be modified once they start building it anyway.

Andrew Wotton, a former Weston resident, said:

"A lot of these designs are not realistic for Weston and I do think some of them are ridiculous. I think a main issue that needs to be addressed when looking at redesigning the area is the transport and none of these designs take that into account."

I don't think any of these will put Weston on the map.

Paola Bianchi, of Hunter and Partners architects in London, who also entered the competition, said:

"I like the two projects that look like rock. They recreate the environment for the birds. What I am concerned about is that none of the designs showed a raised promenade which I think could be a problem because of the water level."

Chris Bellamy, of Rolstone, near Banwell, said:

"I really like the first design, I think it is very exciting and is also a useful design while also being full of entertainment. I also like the sixth design and its modern look doesn't worry me at all."

These comments were taken from people visiting the Winter Garden's exhibition on December 8:

Peter Betteridge, aged 72, of Kewstoke, said: "There are some good ideas but I think it will have to be a mixture of a few of them.

"I would be very sorry if it went very modern. I don't think it would be fitting to the area to have a futuristic design.

"My favourites are the designs by Levitate Architecture and Design Studio and Richard Partington Architects. I like the general layout of the Partington design and I quite like the ideas they've got.

"My objection is that all their new buildings are just square boxes and I think that would look shabby."

Margaret Betteridge, aged 56, of Kewstoke, said: "I like the design by Levitate Architecture and Design Studio. I recognise that Birnbeck Pier can't stay Victorian.

"The design shows they are planning to move the concrete and decking to expose the rocks underneath which I think is good. I think it will complement Knightstone, which is a real plus to the town."

Kirsten Anderson, aged 24, of Holford, said: "I like the design by Pierre D'Avoine Architects and White Young Green Planning and Design. They want to turn it into an island with a mix of residential and leisure facilities. It has a huge amount of open space, which means it is flexible. It leaves the function of the building open to suggestion so it can be used for a variety of purposes.

Sian Rookwood, aged 22, of Minehead, said: "I think it needs to be a mix of residential and leisure, which is what the Pierre d'Avoine Architects one suggests.

"I think the fact that some of the design has been left open is good because it means the people of Weston can decide what should go on there.

"I think it is great for the town as it has attracted architects from around the world."

Peter Cartwright, aged 73, of Kewstoke, said: "I'm not too keen on more residential development because there's been a lot of that in the town lately.

"I like the plans by FLACQ Architects. It has a food market and lots of leisure facilities. I think it would be a real asset to the town and bring in more tourists.

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