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Canvey Council Pier

Part 2 Project 2012
Yuting Cheng
Oxford Brookes University Oxford UK

Based on the unique site of Canvey Island, the Canvey Council Pier scheme seeks to subvert the traditional notion of 'civic' architecture into a more democratic and carnivalesque schema. The annual parade, in which the local community celebrates the idiosyncrasies of the island’s unique culture, is an event that a formal council could only hope to achieve. There is friction between the grandiose mission statement and objectives of the council, in contrast with the comparatively banal activities listed in their summary of services. Ambitious objectives to:
‘encourage community cohesion, community pride and enthusiasm...provide a democratic representational voice...promote the economic and commercial vitality of the town...preserve the unique identity of Canvey Island and promote its heritage’
are somewhat paradoxical in comparison to the day to day activities of the council which include organizing the annual garden trail, bi-annual citizen awards, town centre planters and hanging baskets, and management of the tidal pool (Canvey Island Town Council, 2012)
Life on the pier is defined by the seasons. Activity heightens in the summer, culminating in the annual July Carnival while it wanes in the winter: the council floats and offices shed their exuberant facades for dormant hibernation. Mobile home and carnival float construction bounds back to life in the spring season ready for the busy summer ahead.

The pier is an architectural reflection on the exuberant pretences of local government. In contrast, the council occupies several mobile, small-scale timber pavilions constructed in the method of a carnival float. Each service occupies a pavilion of unique appearance, stressing the seemingly disparate operations of the council. The ‘flat’ council architecture must also convey a message about the island’s identity and interpret the town’s image as its civic duty. The densification of complex local character and heritage results in a form of caricature architecture that is absurd as it is real and aims to reinforce the idea of political participation as a forum for social entertainment.

Joining mobile and immobile, transient and fixed, politician and citizen and creating physical and symbolic ties between the sea, the mobile home park, and the town. This is your Pier for Canvey.

Yuting Cheng

Prof David Greene
Mr Toby Shew
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