Southend-on-Sea is a town with history. You need only to take a look around to note the eclectic mix of design and architecture that has been created from well over a century of development and redevelopment.

As time has moved towards the present day, the architects that are responsible for the changing spaces in Southend-on-Sea appear to have re-envisioned the idea of what public buildings and spaces are and have abandoned the more traditional ideas of how they should be designed and constructed. The result is a town rich with varying styles, from Grade II listed buildings and structures to modernistic spaces with interactive features. Read on for more about the changing public spaces of Southend-on-Sea.

Southend Pier

As well as being the longest pleasure pier in the world at 1.34 miles, Southend Pier is also the town’s oldest and most historical feature and is Grade II listed. Built in 1830, Southend Pier has stood witness to many years of good and bad times including fires, boat crashes and two world wars.

An electric tram with just one car was installed on the pier in 1890 which covered 3/4 of a mile of the total pier length. This grew in size to 4 trains with carriages. In 1978 the electric railway stopped operating due to disrepair, this was until 1986 when two new diesel-hydraulic locomotive trains began operating on a single track loop. The line is owned by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and is open every day the pier is open.

The last big fire to hit Southend Pier was in 2005, starting in a public house the fire was responsible for ruining many of the pier attractions at the pier head including the railway station and shops. The pier reopened in August 2006 with a new RNLI lifeboat station located at the pier head. More recently a new entrance to the pier in the style of the lifeboat station was opened.

Southend “City Beach” Promenade

In 2010 Southend Borough Council installed State-of-the-art digital lighting columns and around a number of palm trees to the main area of Southend Seafront now known as “City Beach”.

Also installed were the Southend City Beach Splash Fountains, which are 64 Jets of water seemingly shooting from the ground paired with multi-coloured lighting patterns that form a stunning effect.

There is plenty of interaction with the fountains, especially children, therefore, water quality was deemed to be of paramount importance when installing the fountains. Rather than engaging in expensive excavations, the installers decided to utilise the existing underground pipes from the w/c’s situated close-by, in order to accommodate both the large reservoir tanks and water treatment system for Southend’s Splash Fountains.

Southend High Street

Southend High Street boasts millions of visitors each year thanks to tourists flocking to the seafront and pier. It first became a focus for the retail industry during the Edwardian period. In 1885 the first major store was opened in Southend High Street which was called ‘Garons’, this led the way for other shops to open and by 1902 electric trams were introduced to the high street for shoppers. The trams remained for 72 years, then in 1974 Southend high street was pedestrianised. Throughout all this, many of the original business names remain on the buildings today.

Nowadays, local building occupiers include popular businesses such as The Body Shop, Miss Selfridge, Café Nero and Halifax, there are two shopping centres, one at each end of the high-street, the Royals Shopping Centre and the Victoria Shopping Centre, along with many independent retailers and restaurants.

Southend Campus

In 2004 South Essex College building underwent a huge transformation. One of the commissioned architects described it as “A ground-breaking building” and it still is, more than a decade later.

The architects had built-up expertise in designing football stadiums with their portfolio including the home grounds of clubs such as Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham. It is clear to see that they imported some of the design principles of football architecture into the design of the Southend Campus building.

It is important to understand how to build a community by driving new and innovative architecture. The potential to change workplaces and other commercial public spaces for the better is unlimited, it is also good for improving business in the town.

This article was published on behalf of Steve Jackson Design.

Steve Jackson Design is an architect in Southend-on-Sea. Based in Rayleigh, Steve Jackson has more than 25 years of experience, in all manner of building types and forms of construction. As an architect in Essex, Steve’s work encompasses everything from small residential home extensions to multi-storey flats, listed buildings, commercial premises including shops, offices, cafes and restaurants, to industrial units.