Britain’s new i360 tower a ‘pier in the sky’


The world’s tallest moving observation tower, the i360, opens to the public on Thursday, a futuristic landmark that has transformed the historic seafront in the English tourist resort of Brighton.

A 162-metre (530-foot) high steel tower is ringed by a doughnut-shaped glass observation pod that gently glides up and down.

The design is meant to be a 21st-century take on the Victorian pleasure piers that characterise British seaside towns: this time, a vertical pier in the sky, according to project chiefs.

It is hoped that the attraction will further boost tourism in the southeastern resort of Brighton, a gem of 1700s and 1800s architectural grandeur.

Designed by David Marks and Julia Barfield, the tower is the sequel to their London Eye observation wheel, which opened in the British capital in 2000 and is one of its most popular visitor attractions.

Several places wanted a copy of the giant wheel, but the husband-and-wife team felt the concept wasn’t viable in smaller cities.

Instead they took the chance to recalibrate it for Brighton, already Britain’s most popular seaside destination for foreign tourists, in this project that has taken 13 years of work to come to fruition.

“The key ingredient, as with the London Eye, is moving very slowly to a great height for a fantastic view,” said Barfield.

– ‘The architecture of pleasure’ –

The i360 sits at the entrance to the 1866-built West Pier, which burnt down in 2003.

With a height to diameter ratio of 40 to one, it is the world’s slenderest tall tower, according to Guinness World Records.

“This is very much in the spirit of the West Pier, whose purpose was to delight, entertain and inspire people,” Marks told AFP, standing at the top of the tower.

“Just as it invited Victorian society to go out and walk on water, the i360 turns that concept vertically and invites people to walk on air and get a new perspective on the city.

“Everybody seems to love a great view,” he added.

“It’s a pleasure both to the eyes and the intellect not only to gaze at the horizons but to look beyond them.”

The tower cost £46 million ($61 million, 55 million euros) to build but promises to break even as long as it attracts around half its estimated annual 700,000 visitors.

From the top, visitors can see for 26 miles (42 kilometres) along the coast and out over the English Channel.

Until now, the Royal Pavilion has been Brighton’s standout landmark: an over-the-top, mock Indian palace completed in 1823 as a seaside residence for King George IV, who was known for his indulgent lifestyle.

The Sussex city is also known for its Georgian and Regency terraces, as well as its later Victorian piers, and is now home to an up-and-coming arty crowd and is often considered Britain’s “gay capital”.

The tower’s designers say the new structure, which dominates the city’s skyline, is in keeping with Brighton’s history of bold architecture built for pleasure, but it has not been universally welcomed by locals.

The tower’s nicknames range from the “iSore” to more sexually innuendoed names, and some residents decry the local authority taking on a £36 million loan to fund the project — though the city council insists it is charging the i360 a higher rate than the borrowing costs.

– Alien spacecraft-style pod –

The 18-metre diameter pod — technically an oblate ellipsoid shape — is pulled up by a giant cog and steel cable winch system, located underground. It also uses a counterweight within the tower.

Christian Bouvier, vice-president of French cable car experts Poma, which built the pod and the drive mechanism, said the vertical lift system was a new technical challenge for the company.

“This has never been done before,” he told AFP.

The 200-capacity pod looked like a visiting alien spacecraft when first assembled next to a cornfield in France, Bouvier said.

Looking out from his maiden ride in the pod, he said: “It’s really the wow effect. It is sensational to see, as if in a helicopter.”

Bouvier compared the i360 to Paris’s most famous tower.

“David Marks is really the Gustave Eiffel of our century,” he claimed.

The tower’s lattice steel cladding is designed to diffuse the wind so that it does not wobble, and to protect it from expanding in the sun.

“The results of this actually turned out better than the theory,” said Bouvier.

The pod will travel up and down around 200 times a week, starting in September, and cost visitors £15 ($20, 18 euros) a ride.

by Robin Millard

© 2016 AFP


Guinness Storehouse voted Europe’s leading tourist attraction

Dublin's Guinness Storehouse has been named ‘Europe’s leading tourist attraction’ at the prestigious World Travel Awards.
The award was presented at a European Gala Ceremony in Sardinia this weekend.

Dublin - Guinness Storehouse
It saw the popular city attraction beat off big hits including the Acropolis in Athens, Buckingham Palace, Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia, the Roman Colosseum and the Eiffel Tower to achieve first place.
The World Travel Awards, now in their 22nd year, are decided by open vote and widely hailed as ‘the Oscars of the travel industry’.

“We wish to claim this as a victory for Irish tourism,” said Paul Carty, Managing Director of the Guinness Storehouse, speaking at the Sardinia event.
“One in every two holidaymakers to Dublin visits the Guinness Storehouse, and we are very aware and very proud of our position at the front line of the warm Irish welcome.”

The award comes in a rebound year for Irish tourism, with overseas visitors up 11.7pc between January and June alone, according to CSO figures.
“Since its opening, the Guinness Storehouse has become a truly iconic and ‘must visit’ attraction for overseas visitors to Dublin,” said Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland.
The Storehouse welcomed 1.3 million visitors last year, but a record summer has put it on course to surpass that figure in 2015, Carty says.

“To date this year, we have welcomed almost one million visitors, and we hope to be able to break last year’s record by the end of the year,” he told Independent Travel.
Other attractions vying for the World title will be announced shortly, with regional winners competing in the World Travel Awards Grand Final this December 12th.

Dublin - Guinness Storehouse St Patrick

World Travel Awards:

Viking Week-end!

Dublinia Logo
Dublinia Logo

Hailing from Gudvangen, a real working Viking town, also known as the Viking Valley, it is located in the The Nærøy Fjord in Norway. There are approximately 60 inhabitants who live there and live the way of Vikings past. From the 3rd to the 5th August, the Norway natives will take over Dublinia, exhibiting the primitive way of life in Gudvangen, which mirrors that of Vikings past.

Hosting a range of demonstrations and talks, this once in a lifetime experience will open Dubliners’ eyes to an era bygone, or so one would have thought! From learning the fabric creation technique of Naalbinding with Marie to listening to the awe inspiring Sagas and mythological tales told by Lars, visitors will discover the legacy of a time of warriors! Visitors’ to Dublinia will also discover what life is really like as a Viking merchant and chieftain from Georg and learn all about different Viking games with Rogers.

Visitors’ will be in for an extra special treat as the extraordinary Norse visitors display the strength, skill and courage of Vikings in demonstrations of Glima, a form of Viking wrestling, which will be held in the courtyard of Dublinia. Hailed as one of the top cultural attractions the city has to offer, Dublinia will be home to the Norse Vikings from 3rd to 5th August inclusive from 10.30am – 4.30pm each day as part of its exciting summer programme of events which will take visitors back into a time unknown where they can explore the wonderful ways of Dubliners past. Located on St. Michaels Hill, Christchurch, an historically important position in the heart of Dublin City, Dublinia is open daily from 10am to 5pm.