Clarence Pier

Clarence Pier – a vision of the space age in Hampshire!

This building comes as something as a surprise in a Hampshire seaside town, as it would be more at home in Los Angeles than in conservative old Blighty. This building is very extravagant and that’s quite appropriate as it was always designed to be a pleasure palace and some boring old Prince Charles style ‘recycled Georgewardian (best before 1900)’ would hardly have been appropriate.

It seems that the architects were allowed to go completely over the top but that’s why I love this building so much. It must have been incredibly modern and exciting when it opened in 1961, a replacement for original buildings that were victim to enemy WWII air raids.

In the 1950s, there was a bold vision for the future, showcased at the Festival of Britain and so spaceships and atomic power were the subject of much excitement and kids’ TV shows such as Thunderbirds and Stingray offered an insight into this. Clarence Pier would not have looked out of place on  the set of any of those numerous visionary programmes. It’s a real building of the exciting space-age future.

Concrete ‘shell roofs’ were very much in fashion in the 1960s and found themselves into numerous buildings in their different forms but it was rare to have so many different types of structure in one relatively small building. Probably the most memorable feature is the building’s tower, coloured in bright blue and yellow; a dominant colour scheme across several parts of the building. This is topped by a circular disc that appears to be floating on the glass windows and clearly resembles a flying saucer.

The side profile of the main building has a zig-zag roof known as a folded plate shell roof; the ‘folds’ in it giving it strength to span wide areas without needing supports.

Attached to this is a building with a different type of folded concrete roof; this one resembling the wings of a bird or perhaps of a jet aircraft.  It’s hard to explain  the geometry of this one and I am getting too far into the scary realm that is maths to go there!

The building has been used as The Golden Horseshoe amusement arcade ever since I can remember but it’s still associated with the adjacent funfair (which has greatly reduced in size sadly). It also contains a Wimpy bar and a kid’s play area.  I believe it originally had a ballroom in but I have not been able to dig up much info.

Finally, adjacent to, but separate, is a smaller building. This used to be a pub but is now the Wheel of Fortune, another amusement arcade. This has another shell roof that looks as though it is going to take off.

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