Birnbeck Pier and Island by Levitate

Architects Levitate have won the competition to revitalise Birnbeck Pier at Weston-Super-Mare, England (see our earlier story for details of the competition).


Five other architects were shortlisted for the competition, organised by developer Urban Splash: AOC Architecture Ltd, London; FLACQ Architects, London; MOH Architects, Vienna; Pierre d'Avoine / White Young Green Planning & Design, Cardiff; and Richards Partington Architects, London.


Here's the press info from Urban Splash:



A design concept which reflects the past, whilst adding exciting new contemporary buildings, has won the international architectural competition staged by Urban Splash and the Royal Institute of British Architects for Birnbeck Pier and Island, Weston-super-Mare. Urban Splash will now work closely with the winning team from Levitate Architecture and Design Studio Ltd to develop the outline concept into a final design.


Levitate, which has offices in London and Bristol, impressed the judges by its understanding of the location, its history and the memories associated with it. Whilst recognising the need for modern, commercially viable development on the island, the team demonstrated real clarity of thought about the way the old and new can work together in bringing Birnbeck back to life.


Explains George Ferguson, chairman of the judges: “The six shortlisted entries provided us with a remarkable range of striking ideas, each with real merit. Our task was not only to pick the broad design approach but also to select a team of architects with real empathy and commitment to the project and a clear willingness to work closely alongside the client and stakeholders to develop and deliver a scheme that works well for Weston.”

Levitate’s scheme centres on rebalancing development on Birnbeck Island, revealing the island’s natural beauty and removing the unsightly decks that shroud it. It recognises the island’s history and adds two new elevated linear buildings. These may include a hotel, leisure and residential accommodation.

Says Jason Collard, managing director of Urban Splash (South West): “This is a great result and one which reflects some of the feedback received from the exhibition. Now that we have our winning architects there is much to be done to translate the outline concept into reality. Building on the core thinking behind the Levitate design, we will work together to refine the look, content and construction of the development on the island as well as on the foreshore.”

Spencer Guy at Levitate says: “We are very excited to have won the architectural competition and are looking forward to working with Urban Splash and local stakeholders. Birnbeck is an amazing location and is a unique project. Our design aims to amplify the existing qualities of Birnbeck, whilst making it a complementary destination for local people and visitors to Weston-super-Mare.”

Councillor Elfan Ap Rees, Deputy Leader of North Somerset Council who has responsibility for strategic planning and tourism, comments: “I am delighted to see another key step being taken towards regeneration of the old pier and the surrounding area and am looking forward to further details being progressed in discussion with Urban Splash and the architects.”

Today’s announcement marks the next key stage in regeneration of this part of Weston. The interest generated by the competition has helped focus attention on the town’s future and the winning architectural practice very clearly shares enthusiasm for that future.

The search for an architect to work on the project began in August, with the announcement of the international architectural competition, run under strict RIBA rules. The first stage of judging took place at the end of November, with 95 entries from around the world being assessed. A shortlist of six was announced in December.

An exhibition of all entries was held at the Winter Gardens in December with visitors encouraged to provide their feedback on the shortlist. This was then made available to the judges.

In the final stage of judging, held in Weston last week, each practice made a more detailed presentation of its proposal, followed by a question and answer session.

The competition judging panel included:

  • Sir Neil Cossons, former chairman of English Heritage
  • Jeremy Gould, Head of Architecture, University of Plymouth and Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) regional representative
  • Charles McCann, chairman, Birnbeck Regeneration Trust and Friends of the Old Pier Society
  • Cllr Elfan Ap Rees, North Somerset Council
  • David Turner, North Somerset Council
  • Jonathan Falkingham, Urban Splash
  • Ian Knight, South West of England Regional Development Agency
  • Jason Collard, Urban Splash
  • George Ferguson (chair), Acanthus Ferguson Mann and past president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

The five other shortlisted entries were submitted by: AOC Architecture Ltd, London; FLACQ Architects, London; MOH Architects, Vienna; Pierre d'Avoine / White Young Green Planning & Design, Cardiff; and Richards Partington Architects, London.