They call it the vertical pier: the British Airways i360 in Brighton is a jaw-dropping new landmark that combines contemporary glamour with a seaside legacy. And GEZE UK is helping open the doors for millions of visitors to head skywards for views of an incredible coastline.
The unique visitor attraction, with its slender 530ft tower and glass viewing pod offering 360-degree vistas, opened this summer. Beneath it lies the Beach Building, housing the attraction’s flexible event space, shop and restaurant.
It’s here, within a dramatic glass façade, that six pairs of sliding doors provide access to the venue, powered by GEZE’s Slimdrive SL NT single operators. Their slim design and a drive unit height of just 7cm makes Slimdrive SL NT operators almost invisible in elevation, ideally complimenting the aesthetic of the glazed frontage.
Designed to be virtually silent in operation, the Slimdrive SL NT provides safe and easy access in high traffic areas and was considered the perfect solution by Fill Metalbau, an Austrian specialist company tasked with developing the building envelope in steel and glass.
In defining the right doors for the Beach Building, the company had two key issues in mind: they would need to be robust and resilient. British Airways i360’s beach front location meant that they would need to battle the elements. The force of potentially strong winds made the use of swing doors impractical which meant that automatic sliding doors were the obvious choice. They also needed to be rigorous in performance with high visitor numbers expected.
Slimdrive SL NT operators have a proven track record of outstanding performance; in TUV test cycles, their endurance is measured by over one million operations. Sliding doors are also an excellent space saver and their installation into the Beach Building maintains the aesthetic of its seamless glass façade.
British Airways i360 sits at the landward end of the former Victorian West Pier. It tips a nod to its heritage: two Grade I-listed cast iron tollbooths, originally built for the West Pier, have been painstakingly rebuilt and incorporated either side of its roadside elevation, housing a tea room and the ticket office.
Accessing the dynamic new building with its anticipated high levels of footfall was a key consideration in its development. It was important to allow the various parts of the building to operate independently of each other while ensuring that visitors could comfortably navigate all that British Airways i360 has to offer.
The attraction was twelve years in the making and is the brainchild of architect-entrepreneurs David Marks and Julia Barfield of Marks Barfield Architects, best known for the design of the world-famous London Eye.
The glass pod of the British Airways i360 is ten times the size of a London Eye capsule and is capable of carrying up to 200 passengers as it slowly rises 450 feet up the slender steel tower during its flights, providing panoramic views of the Brighton and Hove coastline and across the channel.
Out to sea, stand the skeletal remains of the West Pier, now a feature of Brighton’s seafront with a desolate beauty of what once was.
British Airways i360 chairman and director of Marks Barfield Architects, David Marks, has dubbed the new attraction a “modern day, vertical pier” which offers visitors the opportunity to “walk on air” just as West Pier invited Victorian society to “walk on water”.
He also added: “It was essential for us to have the right doors to provide access to the venue: silent in operation with and a slim design, as well as robust and resilient, and most importantly designed to fit with the aesthetic of the Beach Building and its glass façade”.
Kaz Spiewakowski, managing director of GEZE UK, said that he was delighted that GEZE’s products had been used in such a prestigious development.
“This is a quality development constructed from materials and technology from across the globe. It is set to become one of Britain’s iconic landmarks and we are thrilled that millions of visitors will be passing through our doors on their way to enjoy a breathtaking experience.”
The British Airway’s i360 is the world’s tallest moving observation tower, the world's first vertical cable car and holds the Guinness World Record for the world's most slender tower.