Of all the architectural delights of British seaside resorts, the most astonishing and idiosyncratic is the seaside pier. Remarkable visual spectacles, piers are architecturally extraordinary in concept and at times outrageous in execution. They brought together the Victorian genius for technological and material innovation, architectural ambition and engineering ingenuity in the search for new designs for leisure (as well as profit) over the sea. This superbly illustrated book explores the history of the design processes leading to the architectural and engineering innovations that have allowed people to walk on water in such diverse and delightful ways. Coverage includes the development of piers into the crowning architectural glory of British seaside resorts; the key people, materials, inventions and technologies in the field, particularly the work of Eugenius Birch, the greatest pier designer; the remarkable diversity of piers ranging from the earliest simple landing stages, through staid promenade piers and the glories of fully-fledged pleasure piers, to the boisterous joys of funfair and amusement piers; the rich variety of architectural styles, including exotic 'Orientalism' and streamlined Modernism and, finally, today's contemporary prospects for renewal and reinvention.
Fred Gray is Emeritus Professor of Continuing Education at the University of Sussex and has long been fascinated by seaside resorts and seaside architecture; in Britain and abroad, past and present. He has written extensively on the topic, including Walking on Water (1998) and Designing the Seaside (2006), as well as authoring the official guide to the i360, Brighton's innovative seafront observation tower. His book, Palm, exploring the cultural history of the signature plant of tropical islands, was published in 2018.