Brighton i360

Year:2016

Duration:2 years

Cost:£46m

Country: Brighton, UK

What did this project achieve?

Build the UK's tallest moving observation tower on the seafront

The British Airways i360, also known as the Brighton i360, is a 162m tall observation tower on the seafront at Brighton.

The tower has a moving observation pod which slides up and down the structure. The pod can take up to 200 passengers at a time. A return journey – known as a flight – takes 20 minutes.

From the top visitors can get 360-degree views across Brighton, the South Downs and the English Channel. On the clearest days you can see Beachy Head 27km to the east and the Isle of Wight 79km to the west.

The tower is on the site of what was the entrance to the West Pier. The Victorian attraction closed in 1975 and was later almost completely destroyed in a fire.

The West Pier Trust which owns the site hopes a successful i360 will lead to the rebuilding of the pier.

The tower was conceived as a 'vertical pier.' The design includes a beachfront building that houses a brasserie, café and gift shop.

The original Italianate ticket booths of the West Pier have been recreated for the tower's entrance as a ticket office and tea room.

The i360's operator says that the 'i' in the title stands for 'intelligence, innovation and integrity'.

Difference the i360 has made

The i360 had half a million visitors in its first year, attracting income to the area and helping boost the local economy.

The venue repaid £2.6m of a PWLB loan arranged via the council in its first year. The cash was earmarked for regeneration work along the seafront.

The developers claim that the tower will create more than 440 permanent jobs – 160 at the attraction itself and another 280 from 'spin-off benefits' to other businesses in the city.

How the tower was built

Marks Barfield architects designed the i360, the firm behind the London Eye.

The column was designed to be 4m in diameter with a height to diameter ration of 40:1 – making it one of the slenderest tall tower in the world.

Much of the i360 was constructed offsite. Dutch steelwork specialist Hollandia prefabricated the cylindrical steel sections of the tower – known as cans – in their workshops in the Netherlands.

Each can weighs between 45 and 85 tonnes. It took 180,000 hours labour to make them.

Work on the tower site began in May 2014. Engineers started by digging deep foundations, going more than 20m into the ground. Workers poured 4,150 tonnes of concrete during this part of construction.

The 94 tonne glass passenger pod was designed and built by French cable car specialists Poma. They also built the London Eye capsules.

The pod is 18m in diameter and can hold up to 200 people. Engineers gave it curved glass to reduce glare and improve visibility.

The structure won the Supreme Award for Structural Engineering Excellence at the Institution of Structural Engineers' Structural Awards in 2017.

"​‌

Just as the West Pier invited Victorian society to walk on water so the i360 invites visitors to walk on air.

David Marks

Architect, Brighton i360.

Fascinating facts

The observation pod has been designed not to wobble even if every passenger runs to one side.

The i360 moves in sunlight. When the sun shines - which it does from the south - metal on the south side of the tower expands more than it does on the opposite side. As a result, the structure leans a little further to the north.

People who made it happen

  • Designer: Marks Barfield Architects
  • Contractors: JT Mackley
  • Project managers: Hemsley Orrell Partnership

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