Engineering brilliance at the heart of Brighton’s latest tourist attraction

This month saw the long-awaited opening of the British Airways i360 tower in Brighton and Hove. Situated on the resort’s seafront, the concrete spire, up and down which a glass viewing pod travels, has been awarded the Guinness World Record for the most slender tower in the world.

The tower is over 160 metres above ground while its diameter comes in at a very slim 3.9 metres, giving the tower a height to width aspect ratio of 41.15 to 1. The doughnut-shaped viewing pod carries 200 passengers who take 10 minutes to reach the summit where they can enjoy a panoramic view of Brighton and Hove and its distant environs.

Tourist chiefs estimate the attraction will draw over 700,000 visitors to the city on the south coast and hope it will revitalise Brighton’s hospitality and cultural offering. The i360 also draws inspiration from the London Eye, now established as one of London’s most popular landmarks. In fact, both constructions share the same architects, Marks Barfield Architects .

Researching this blog it was interesting to read the words of John Roberts who was a project engineer on the i360 from the outset. He says a unique feature of the tower is that passengers can walk around inside the pod as it slowly ascends the tower – whereas on many other viewing towers passengers have to stay seated during the journey. He says ensuring the pod stays stable in the face of potentially fierce offshore winds was a key design parameter and this has been achieved by fitting 76 ‘sloshing liquid dampers’, which “help to prevent lateral movements”.

The erection of the tower was another major undertaking and was achieved by delivering all 17 sections by barge onto the beach at Brighton, a building upwards using a “top-down” jacking system, without a crane.

Fittingly, the i360 is located on the site of Brighton’s old West Pier, which was opened in 1866 and has since been destroyed by storms and fire.  It is to be hoped that this new attraction will wow visitors just as the famous pier did over a century ago.