About 10 years ago, the city of St. Petersburg, Florida started talking about tearing down one of its most well-known piece of architecture: a 1970s-era, inverted pyramid at the end of a city pier. The city would then replace that pier head with a more modern, but still architecturally significant, statement. So, a few years back, a design competition was launched, and it resulted in some of the most ambitious designs we’ve ever seen from a competition like this.
The Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) created a massive, spiraling loop, West 8 designed a sea urchin–shaped pavilion, and Michael Maltzan Architecture envisioned The Lens, a massive circuit of bridges and pathways that connect into an angled canopy—or lens—that faces back toward the city. Out of that short-list, Maltzan came out on top, but nothing ever materialized and the inverted pyramid is still standing. Long story short: voters overwhelmingly rejected the $50 million plan at the polls, a new mayor was elected, and then, this fall, a second, more public-facing, competition was launched.
Now, eight designs from that competition have been unveiled. While the teams competing aren’t as well-known as those in round one, their designs are no subtle gestures. Each team received a $30,000 stipend for its work, meaning the second competition has already racked up nearly a quarter million dollar bill. That’s on top of the millions of dollars poured into the first competition that didn’t really go anywhere. All of the new plans come with extraordinarily splashy renderings (literally, there are dolphins splashing around in one), and long, detailed plans. One proposal is even paired with a video set to Frank Sinatra’s “Somewhere Beyond The Sea.”
Following public input, the City Council will approve one of these plans next spring. A St. Petersburg official told AN that funding for the pier has already been allocated and would not have to go back before the voters. For this round, each team was asked to work within a construction budget of $33 million. And now onto the proposals for round two:
FR-EE with Civitas + Mesh
From the architects: Prospect Pier celebrates our unique geography, culture and history as a subtropical, waterfront city. In a reinvented Pyramid that looks to the future, it builds upon the Pier’s assets – a strong form floating over the water. Our vision is a journey that begins downtown, passes through a vibrant park and becomes a magical stroll over water before ascending through active, public spaces culminating in breathtaking views of city, sea and sky, high over Tampa Bay.
Destination St. Pete Pier
St. Pete Design Group
From the architects: The St. Pete Design Group’s concept provides the perfect marriage of historic icon and modernized, functional pier; a pure, crystalline pyramid is surrounded by fun, contemporary elements and activities within multi-leveled layers of shade. Varied attractions that will keep residents and tourists coming back include a larger Spa Beach, multiple dining options, a children’s zone and a spectacular waterfall. Come fish, play, relax and remember. Discover the New St. Pete Pier.
The Pier Park
Rogers Partners Architects+Urban Designers, ASD, Ken Smith
From the architects: The ASD/Rogers Partners/KSLA design honors St. Petersburg Pier’s robust, eclectic history while transforming it into a 21st century public place. It is a hub for activity; not only at the pier head, but all along its length. Flexible programs engage tourists and community alike – from children to seniors, nature lovers to boaters, fishermen to fine diners. The Pier does not take you to a place – the Pier is the place.
It is THE PIER PARK.
From the architects: The Soul of the City. Cultural Icon. Just as the Eiffel Tower image alone can conjure up an entire cultural experience by merely representing a fragment of the City, the Pier transmutations over the years have served as the symbol and spirit of the place that is St. Petersburg. Our project will recapture the past, embrace the present, and look to the future
ALMA: The Soul of St. Petersburg.
W Architecture and Landscape Architecture
From the architects: The vision for the St. Petersburg Blue Pier lagoon park is a grand civic gesture bringing the pier, bay and natural landscape closer to the city. Blue Pier acts as a unifying element uniting the Bay with the City along a new axis of recreational and economic activity. Starting new allows us to set a new sequence of events in motion to make the pier even more successful and relevant for the coming century.
Ross Barney Architects
From the architects: repier is a vision of St. Petersburg as a catalyst for more environmentally-friendly, physically-engaging, and socially exciting urban living. repier adds opportunities to engage with the water, creates marine habitat, provides places to snack and sit in the shade, and builds a social space that also generates electricity. repier projects progress and hope and provides St. Petersburg with a place that is useful and loved.
ahha! – New Quarter
From the architects: The crescent as a metaphor for the growth of our community. A gathering place for the people of St Pete; a place for learning and play. A place that is self sustaining. How does one have a pier experience without actually being on a pier? Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?” – Frank Scully
Discover Bay Life
From the architects: “Discover Bay Life” respects the past and looks to the future by transforming the upland park and pier into a new destination for St. Petersburg. Just as life on the Bay continually transforms, so does life at “The Pier”. Three destinations – Bay Life Park, the Pier, and the Marine Discovery Center – become one unique destination for locals and visitors to discover and enjoy year around.