St. Pete Pier designs: What do you think?

First impressions may be misleading, but they sure get people worked up.

So far, at least from comments on I Love the ’Burg and the St. Petersburg Times website, there seems to be more outrage than enthusiasm about the new designs. One unhappy commenter was reminded of the dreaded pyramid: "When Randolph Wedding pushed that ugly, upside-down triangle down our throats, he basically ruined the visual impact of the former pier and left us with an eyesore and joke for all of these years. I really am concerned that we are going to have another situation of something being forced upon us, that doesn't really suit us."

The Times' Florida writer Jeff Klinkenberg wrote (on I Love the ’Burg), "I'd like to see something more in the 'classic' mold — something that has a sense of Tampa Bay place. None of these do that for me."

But the proposals also have their champions, like USFSP journalism student Stephen Cook:

"I love seeing all of these old people railing against these designs. Check your calendar, and welcome to 2011."

Andrew Waters, senior interactive designer at Turner Broadcasting, put it this way on I Love the ’Burg: "Here's the deal: the city needs an icon. You might not like what it is, or where the cash comes from, but it needs a draw to that area. The old pier, while unique, wasn't captivating enough. Other cities, from LA's Disney Music Hall, Milwaukee's Calatrava’s Quadracci Pavilion, and Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum, have capitalized on a major piece of architecture as a draw for tourism. Nobody wants to drive to see an old Mediterranean building, stuck in downtown St. Pete. Even the new Dali museum is somewhat conservative, but that still draws folks because of its content. And for everyone that says 'I don't like it' let me see your degree in architecture, your credentials for city planning, or your metrics on tourism to back up your claims. Oh you don't have any? Exactly my point. These designs are captivating, compelling and will do their job: bring interested people to that area of the city, and spend money there."

Who do you agree with? Tell us what you think — although as some have recommended, it might be a good idea to read the architects' descriptions before reacting to the visuals alone.

Then again, the urge to get rid of the Pier has largely been powered by visuals — we just can't stand looking at that damn inverted pyramid anymore — so it's understandable that St. Pete's first concern is what the pyramid replacement is going to look like.

Look out, St. Petersburg! The three design firms chosen by the city as finalists in the $50 million Pier Design Competition have released their concepts for the highly anticipated landmark upgrade. The designs go on display to the public at the St. Petersburg Museum of History December 6-30 in the "Look, Think, Share" exhibit (admission free). The designers officially present their concepts to the jury panel December 15-16. (Look for interviews with the designers in CL in the coming week.) The final decision won't be made until February 2.

St. Pete City Council doesn't seem likely to call a public referendum on the project, but they are asking for public input via voting — which is kind of the same thing? Except without any actual power to change or choose?

In any case, people are making themselves heard, and how. Follow the links to see what the architects came up with, and leave a comment about your favorites (or tell us why you hate 'em all).

Michael Maltzan Architecture: The Lens: "…a new icon for the City of St. Petersburg, reframing the relationship between the City and the Bay."

West 8 Urban Design and Landscape Architecture: The People's Pier/St. Pete's Eye: "One pier, multiple experiences."

BIG Designs: The Wave: "…a network of paths form a tributary of public life that gradually flows together…"

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