Despite Controversy, Michael Maltzan Architecture’s “Lens” Will Go On

Courtesy of Michael Maltzan Architecture

Despite petitions and pending lawsuits, the St. Petersburg City Council declared last night that Michael Maltzan Architecture‘s $50 million re-design of the city  will go on.

The project, known as “The Lens,” has hit speed-bumps due to local dissidents, who have been vocally wary of the new Pier’s price-tag/design and have called for a voter referendum. However, the architects have been sensitive to the process; since first winning the competition in January (beating out BIG and West 8), the firm has taken part in local workshops to get community input, making some significant changes to the original design.

After receiving local criticism that the Pier include more things “to do” and more shading, the firm has adjusted the design to include two restaurants, shaded balconies, and – in order to improve access – a road that can support service vehicles and a tram. Most noticeably, the plan for an underwater reef garden, the signature feature which gave the project its name, has had to be scratched: scientists have determined that a reef garden would be unrealistic with Tampa Bay’s dark water.

Last night’s 7-1 vote determined that the project will now receive funding in smaller, pre-approved increments in order to safeguard against potential legal complications. However, no mater the outcome, the closure and the demolition of the current Pier will take place between May and August 2013; if all goes to plan for Michael Maltzan Architecture, “The Lens” will open in summer 2015.

See updated Renderings for “The Lens,” and a really cool video, after the break…

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The Architects’ descriptionLike a magnifying glass on the water, the Pier is a lens back to the city, and a window into the underwater world beneath.  Twin bridges extend out and back, no longer unidirectional, but instead a circuit, allowing for a diversity of experience reflecting a more reciprocal relationship between the Pier and the surrounding waterfront.

This is a new space for collective experiences for individuals, families, and the residents of St. Pete to gather, to play, and to celebrate.  Water is the icon, a vast amenity that defines the city in many ways.  The Pier provides a host of both powerful and nuanced ways to experience the bay – its particular light, atmosphere, horizon, its nautical sociability, its renewed underwater life, an aquatic perspective on the city itself.

As its canopy rises over the Bay, the Lens incorporates bicycle and walking paths arcing upwards before returning to the water’s edge. Its broad form shelters the main promenade from the hot sun and the rain, welcoming visitors as they arrive on foot, on bicycle, or via the Pier Tram. Elevators and stairs bring visitors up to a series of viewing decks with unprecedented views of the city skyline in the distance.

According to the, “One of two pathways leading to the Pier’s canopy, Overwater Drive will serve pedestrians, service vehicles, a motorized passenger tram and emergency access over-water” Photo © Michael Maltzan Architecture.
According to, “A visitor’s first experience to the new Pier begins at the Welcome Mat. A circular round-about and a public piazza define the space, providing a transportation hub and space for outdoor events, such as farmer’s markets and civic celebrations.” Photo © Michael Maltzan Architecture.
According to, “Within the closed loop of the new Pier, a sheltered harbor will house a circular floating dock marina. Built for non-motorized watercraft, The Pier will offer concessions for a variety of boats, from kayaks and paddle boats to stand-up paddle boards. This area also includes provisions for a concession stand, bait shop and restrooms.” Photo © Michael Maltzan Architecture.
“At night, the surface of the canopy can become an extraordinary surface for video projection, for performance, and for art. Patterns of light, color or even clouds can track across its surface and will be visible from the Amphitheater and the surrounding city.” Courtesy of Michael Maltzan Architecture
According to, “Adjacent to parking facilities and located on land at the base of the Pier, the Hub will be the primary retail and restaurant destination for the new Pier. An elevated walkway along the water’s edge will offer unparalleled views of the dramatic Pier canopy, and space will be provided for retail, restaurant and other concessions.” Photo © Michael Maltzan Architecture.
Cite: Quirk, Vanessa. "Despite Controversy, Michael Maltzan Architecture’s “Lens” Will Go On" 07 Dec 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
  • JDCarling

    Should have picked BIG. Just a local Floridian fan saying this.

  • Patrick Langford

    I loved the BIG design. It’s an epic fail that the lense won. The design is cold empty and won with flawed programming. I love the rendering showing images against the cold concrete pointing to the sky like anyone will see that. Maybe San Diego will build the wave.

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  • Frankencense

    This will never be built. Florida’s too full of idle old Republicans just itching to rally around a dream they can destroy in the name of fiscal conservatism.

  • Rob

    Lens Design, while amazing – its has no air conditioning over the water. The drawings on Maltzans web site are old and are not correct. That is what happens when a California Architect designs a structure for Florida. Didnt the local architect, Lisa Wannamaker, who is the husband of the Cassis AB owner, tell Maltzan that? I just spoke to international tourist who said they would not go outto the Lens when if there was no air conditioning and restaurant mix – they laughed at the “Cafe” idea – Why sit in the heat or cold to eat when they there is no protection from the elements?

  • Rob

    Battle of the PACs for Pier’s Future in #StPete #Florida – Scroll down to read #SocialMedia Brand Risk