“Monster or stunning architecture?” UK’s vertical pier opens this week

The world’s thinnest tall building opens tomorrow (Thursday) offering views of more than 40km of The UK’s southern coastline.

The British Airways i360 viewing tower, designed by Marks Barfield Archiutects, is 161m high and allows visitors to ascend to a height of 138in a 360-degree curved-glass pod.

It is officially the world’s tallest moving observation tower and the slenderest with a width to height ratio of 1-40..

Architect David Marks, who designed the building alongside his colleague Julia Barfield, said: “This is the culmination of a 12-year journey that started on a kitchen table and ends 138m above Brighton and Hove beach.

“We feel incredibly happy and proud on behalf of the hundreds, if not thousands, of people that worked to bring the project to reality.”

The attraction’s location is in front of the city’s historic, much-loved West Pier, was intentional. This is the 150th anniversary year of Eugenius Birch’s Grade-I listed Brighton West Pier, which opened in 1866. The modern interpretation of that now-defunct icon was conceived as a “vertical pier,” according to Marks.

The ride up takes 20 minutes, or 30 minutes in the evening when the pod turns into the Sky Bar

“Our vision was to follow in the spirit of the original pier, inviting visitors to walk on air and gain a new perspective of the city, just as in the past they walked on water,” Marks said..

“We believed it could not be allowed to disappear without the creation of something on its site that reflects its heritage and public appeal.”

Marks Barfield also created the London Eye and the Kew Gardens Treetop Walkway. But the i360’s viewing pod is 10 times the size of a London Eye capsule.

“It is 16 years since the Eye was built and technology has moved on massively in terms of the rider experience,” said a spokeswoman for the i360.

The 93-tonne “doughnut” glides silently down to an access platform at ground level where two glass doors automatically part. Passengers are welcomed by two British Airways flight crew and are free to move about inside.

The ride up takes 20 minutes, or 30 minutes in the evening when the pod turns into a Sky Bar serving English  wine, beer and juices.

But the tower has divided local opinion, with some declaring it “a total monster” others praising it as “world-class, stunning architecture”.

Glynn Jones, chairman of the city’s West Pier Trust, thought the “vertical pier in the sky” showed “the city is, once again, embracing and celebrating world-class, stunning architecture” as it affords visitors views from Bexhill in East Sussex to Chichester in West Sussex with the South Downs to the north.

But Valerie Paynter, of the saveHove campaign, said it was “like something springing horribly out of the earth in a horror movie”.

Chief Executive of i360, Eleanor Harris, claimed the tower would transform Brighton’s tourism prospects.

She said: “We have built the world’s first vertical cable car, the world’s tallest moving observation tower, the world’s most slender tower.

“We are putting Brighton on the map and promoting the city around the globe.”