Tom Leader Studio
Michael Maltzan Architecture
The St. Petersburg Pier, known as "The Lens", was
recently selected as the winner of the international
"The Lens" is a new icon for the City of St. Petersburg, reframing the relationship between the City and the Bay. Visible from afar, it is a crown on the skyline and a marker within the daily life of St. Petersburg.
Embracing the water at its center, it is a loupe focused on the water, an observation point for the sky overhead, the water below, and the city skyline beyond. As its canopy rises over the Bay, "The Lens" incorporates bicycle and walking paths arcing upwards before returning to the water's edge. Its broad form shelters the main promenade from the hot sun and the rain, welcoming visitors as they arrive on foot, on bicycle, or via the Pier Tram.
Two bridges link the Lens to the upland: one skims along the water's surface creating a direct dialogue with the surrounding Bay; the other raises high overhead taking in sweeping vistas of the Pier and City. These twin bridges create a promenade to and from the Lens which is no longer unidirectional, but is instead a circuit, providing a diversity of experience as visitors travel out and return.
The lower bridge is a wider, wood‐clad deck accommodating pedestrians, runners, bicyclists, the Pier Tram, and service and emergency vehicles. The upper bridge's airy promenade is for pedestrians, and perhaps pelicans, with views in all directions, to the bridge below, and the water beneath.
At the focal point within the Lens are the remains of the old
pier. Recognizing the significant role the current Pier has played
in the City's history, and the not insignificant cost to remove it,
the design team did not propose to demolish it. Instead the design
leaves the caissons that support the current pier in place beneath
the water's surface, creating an armature for an unprecedented
underwater garden. This reef will host a publicly visible, rich
marine habitat that will support regeneration and growth. Oysters
and sea grass create the "floor" of Tampa Bay's food web structure
- they create the conditions for mollusks, fish, turtles, manatees
Within the Lens' interior, wave action is dampened through a series of below‐water panels hung beneath the promenade at its perimeter. This action creates an unexpectedly tranquil water surface and a welcoming aquatic landscape within. A second circuit within includes a harbor and central dock. Devoted to kayaks and paddle boats, with transient slips ringing the periphery, this new harbor also includes a café terrace with views to the Reef; kayak, paddle boat and stand‐up paddle board rentals; and a bait shop with fishing off the eastern side of the inner ring. By carefully choreographing this range of experiences these multiple uses are able to coexist side by side.
Beneath the sheltering form of the Lens' canopy, extending
outward into the Bay, is a rocky outcrop where visitors can pause
and take in the experience and beauty of the water and horizon
beyond. The forest of columns that support the canopy subtly twist,
their profile appearing to dissolve momentarily at mid‐span.
Elevator and stair towers connect the lower and upper levels in
this area; a service and emergency vehicle turnaround is also
incorporated. Balconies extend out from the canopy above, creating
elevated places to sit and take in the view.
Opposite the Lens that extends out over the water is a
complementary loop that encircles the upland as it meets downtown.
The experience of the Pier today is isolated from the upland and
downtown. This Civic Loop, with the great lawn of the Civic Green
at its center, directly links the experience of the water with the
life of the downtown St. Petersburg. Pedestrian and bicycle
pathways extending across this landscape loop connecting a diverse
range of recreational experiences both over land or over
water, knitting the site into a singular whole.
The new marina, beaches, and lagoons that extend across the
upland, descend to the water's edge, float over it, and arc above
it, defining extraordinary experiences and environments for
recreation and restoration. The new Pier also reshapes the upland's
southern edge by lifting the primary pedestrian promenade to create
a continuous experience of the water that begins at Bayshore Drive.
Linking City and Pier alike, the project is no longer two parts,
upland and over water, but instead a united whole.
The new Pier will be a central element connecting downtown St. Petersburg and its waterfront including Vinoy Park, Demen's Landing, and Straub Park. A series of east‐west connections link the Pier along Central Avenue and 2nd Avenue North to the heart of downtown and Mirror Lake. A new promenade and sculpture walk will extend the existing cultural and commercial axis to the north and south along Beach Drive, supporting continued development along the water and linking the new Pier, the City and its waterfront.
The canopy's surface also plays an active role for
sustainability. Built of pre‐cast white concrete panels, the canopy
incorporates an array of micro turbines embedded in its surface,
their patterned form taking advantage of prevailing winds and the
canopy's form. Solar panels are arrayed across the northwest edge
of the bowl, their position optimized in relationship to the sun's
path. The canopy also captures and routes rainwater into collection
cisterns embedded in the pedestrian pathway below.
Facts about Tom Leader Studio
Local Associate Architect:
Structural, MEP, and Sustainability Engineer:
Civil & Sustainable Infrastructure Engineer:
Sherwood Design Engineers
Mote Marine Laboratory
Applied Technology & Management, Inc.
HR&A Advisors, Inc. / Economic Development Advisor
Last updated: December 19, 2013