Deal Pier was constructed in 1957, and originally designed by Sir William Halcrow & Partners. Extending 275m out into the English Channel, the 6.5m wide pier approach leads to the isolated pier head made up of three levels, all constructed in reinforced concrete slabs supported on concrete encased steel beams. The existing café, located on the same site, had degraded substantially over time due to its exposure to the aggressive maritime environment and needed to be replaced.
The previous structure was constructed in ferrous materials. For a structure under long-term exposure to a highly corrosive environment, this was not ideal. The pier is generally 7m above sea level, but wave spray frequently breaks over the deck, especially during storms. For the new building, the aim was to find a construction material whose intrinsic properties were naturally suited to this environment. Iroko, a highly durable timber that could be left untreated and exposed, was chosen as the primary building material.
The buildings structure is a series of trussed portal frames with pinned feet to minimise load transfer to the existing pier structure. The frames were developed with Niall McLaughlin Architects to make use of standard length, triangulated timber ‘spars’ for a highly efficient and minimalist structure to resist the vertical, wind, and wave impact load. The individual lengths of Iroko were connected by stainless steel flitch plates, recessed into each joint. The use of bolted connections allowed each frame to be broken up into modules that could be easily transported along the pier approach. The frames were assembled at the pier head and tilted up into position without the need for heavy cranage.
The Iroko portal frames that make up the structure of the building are linked by stressed skin plywood panels and large windows. Timber slats provide shading around a glazed café at the southern end of the building where visitors can enjoy the best views of the sea, sky and light from the end of the pier.