ST. PETERSBURG — A panel of jurors listened to hourlong presentations Friday from each of three finalists vying to design the city's new icon, a pier to replace the inverted pyramid that opened in 1973.
At the end of the day, at least one juror, Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, said he had made up his mind about how the designs should be ranked. But he did not reveal his decision.
However, the designs that elicited the most praise and interest from the five judges were the Lens by Michael Maltzan Architecture of Los Angeles and the Wave by BIG of Denmark and New York City. West 8 Urban Design of New York, which created a concept called the Eye, received a more restrained response.
Questions from the judges centered mainly on cost, shade along the pier approach, materials that will be used to build the structures, permitting, storm ratings and boating.
James Moore, senior vice president of HDR, an architectural, engineering and planning firm with offices in Tampa, called BIG's concept "a very powerful image."
The Wave looks like a giant wheel.
Council member Leslie Curran said it was "just astonishing" and a "great design."
Stanley Saitowitz, professor emeritus of architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, said he appreciated "the simplicity and generosity" of the Wave.
While the exterior was compelling, Saitowitz questioned how that would be translated into the interior, which he called "more typical."
Bjarke Ingels, founding partner of Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), said though many rooms have been designated for various activities, each would have striking features and that the north side of the Wave would feature a 90-foot-high atrium.
Juror Susan Fainstein, an urban planning professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, was concerned that there was "no shade at all" on the concept's pier approach.
And putting his "risk management hat on," Welch asked about safety on the roof top, which at 127 feet is 30 feet higher than the current Pier.
Because of its large radius, the top is "relatively flat,'' explained local architect Tim Clemmons, who is part of the BIG team. Besides, it will have a 42-inch-high guard rail. Ingels added that the slope is so gentle that it would be handicap-accessible.
The judges also seemed impressed with the Lens, which resembles a tiara. They seemed particularly interested in the proposal that took in Mirror Lake to the west, featured sculptured shade "trees" with bladeless fans and solar and wind power.
Moore praised the "spectacular presentation," and said he appreciated the fact that the concept was extended into the city and praised the detail of its ideas for sustainability, which would include the use of solar and wind power.
Saitowitz was impressed with the mosaic of loops and paths in the design but wanted to know about the construction of the Lens' canopy. It would be made mostly of prefabricated concrete with an integral color finish, meaning the finish would be mixed into the concrete to control color and texture.
Welch, who had asked the other designers about cost, questioned the pricing of West 8's project, a design modeled on a sea urchin.
Welch pointed out that West 8's written proposal seemed to call for an additional $29 million for the cover of the Eye, on top of the $45 million Phase 1 cost.
The team, headed by Adriaan Geuze, said Friday that the estimate was incorrect and that the shell would be included for the $45 million.
Saitowitz asked about the Eye's scale and whether the proposed pier would replace the inverted pyramid with something equal or better. Geuze said it would.
More than 200 people watched the presentations at the Coliseum. Downtown St. Petersburg resident Laura Andrews liked the Wave, but her favorite was the Lens.
"That's the one that intrigues me the most," she said.
Alex Rios, an architecture student at the University of South Florida, also liked the Lens. "It's so integrated into St. Pete,'' he said.
He liked BIG's form and called it appealing and "very thought provoking."
He thought the Eye offered amazing views.
He said the jury seemed to favor BIG and Michael Maltzan.
The panel will meet on Jan. 20 to announce their decisions.
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283.