British Airways i360 is a 162-metre-tall tower with a fully enclosed futuristic glass observation pod that gently lifts groups of up to 200 passengers to a height of 138 metres.
Offering slowly unfolding 360-degree views of up to 26-miles over Brighton and Hove, the South Downs, the South Coast and the English Channel, the purpose of British Airways i360 is simply to delight, entertain and inspire.
Built at the landward end of Brighton’s historic West Pier, British Airways i360 is a modern-day ‘vertical pier’ that gives a new perspective on the city. Just as the West Pier welcomed Victorian society to ‘walk on water’, British Airways i360 invites visitors to ‘walk on air’.
British Airways i360 is a radically different bespoke design, engineering, and viewing experience compared to other viewing towers around the world. In terms of technical innovation, it is comparable to the London Eye. Both represent huge advances over earlier viewing experiences, incorporating significant innovative engineering solutions to complex problems.
Acknowledged by Guinness World Records as the world’s most slender tower, with a height-to-width ratio of more than 40:1, British Airways i360 is an engineering feat that breaks new ground in the engineering and construction of tall structures. It uses state-of-the-art cable car technology to drive the pod up and down, with an energy re-capture system that generates electricity as the pod descends. The entire site uses ‘green energy’.
British Airways i360 is designed to operate even in windy conditions and has a series of state-of-the-art measures installed which ensure that the ride is always smooth and safe. Firstly, the perforated aluminium cladding around the tower diffuses and disrupts the flow of wind by allowing some wind to pass through it, thereby reducing wind-induced vibrations. Secondly, dampers are installed inside the tower to prevent vibrations and, thirdly, dampers are also inside the pod, which is itself aerodynamically shaped for least resistance to the wind.
The Beach Building at the base of the tower, flanked by a pair of faithfully reconstructed Eugenius Birch-designed 1866 tollbooths, is a single storey glazed building that stretches the width of Regency Square behind it. It incorporates a restaurant, shop, conference and event facilities and, in future, a children’s play area, its roof extending the esplanade on the seafront to provide the pod boarding area.
In urban design terms, the vertical feature of the tower can be seen as a 21st century equivalent of an obelisk which traditionally was used to visually complete the bottom of an open ended three-sided classically inspired plan such as Regency Square.
The slender tower, aligned on the central axis of Regency Square, creates a strong reference point, physically and symbolically, as a beacon from the sea and afar. Historically, this role was provided by the spire of St Paul’s, West Street, which was used as a point of navigation to identify, and assert, where Brighton is, before its view was obscured and its prominence reduced by surrounding buildings. British Airways i360 re-establishes this symbolic and traditional role.