With its inaugural journey set to take off this Thursday 4th August, the British Airways i360 will officially make its mark as the tallest moving observation tower in the world.
Situated on the stretch of seafront outside Hove’s Regency Square, the 162-metre structure will transport up to 200 passengers at a time – using state-of-the-art cable car technology – to an unobstructed view of the city and surrounding areas (and, on a clear day, even to France).
As visitors complete their journey, they’ll be returned to ground level to explore the i360 Beach Building, which includes a 400-seat bistro, souvenir shop, children’s play area, exhibition space, tearoom and conference/event facilities.
Eleven years in the making, the British Airways i360 is the brainchild of David Marks and Julia Barfield, who also put their minds behind the UK’s number one paid-for visitor attraction – the London Eye. Built in 1999, the Eye has seen much support and success over the years, helping pave the way for landscaping the Jubilee Gardens in London as well as supporting other public improvements, community groups and local initiatives on the South Bank.
However, despite the architect/entrepreneur duo’s legacy in the capital, many Brightonians remain concerned the pair’s newest attraction will not benefit our little London-by-Sea in the same way, branding it an “eyesore” and a “waste of money”.
Warren Morgan, leader of Brighton & Hove City Council, is one of few confident that the project will have a positive effect. He said:
“British Airways i360 is perhaps the most significant addition to our visitor economy since the council opened the Brighton Centre in 1977. Like that project, the whole city has a stake in British Airways i360 and it’s in all our interests to see it succeed.
“This transformation of our seafront will help secure our city’s economic future, providing the growth we need to support jobs, homes and services.”
Once opened, the British Airways i360 is predicted to earn Brighton & Hove City Council at least £1million a year through additional tourism to the city – plus 1% of all ticket revenues.
Julia Barfield, one of the architect behind the project, added: “We first experienced what impact that heady mix of innovative architecture and engineering, combined with a great view of a great city, can have on the city at the London Eye. How it can be a catalyst for regeneration, breathe new life into forgotten areas and most importantly, give back to the city.”
While the British Airways i360 may be the most recently-appointed Marmite of architecture, there’s no denying its innovative design will have a major impact on the future of Brighton – whether you love it or hate it.
The British Airways i360 celebrates its launch tomorrow evening with a spectacular community event on Brighton beach, with fireworks and a lighting display taking place at 10pm. Tickets for students £7.50pp with a valid student card and Resident Membership (available for £1 to people living in postcode areas BN1, BN2, BN3 and BN41, and to students studying at either the University of Brighton or Sussex).
What do you think about the i360? Tell us on Twitter @VerseBrighton.