Michael Maltzan Sinks Underwater Reef Garden Idea for Revised St. Petersburg Pier Design

When it rains, it pours, at least so it seems with high-profile contemporary architecture projects. Last Thursday, Los Angeles firm Michael Maltzan Architecture took home the turkey, so to speak, beating out an impressive shortlist including Diller Scofidio + RenfroKengo Kuma & Associates, and Preston Scott Cohen Inc. to design the Winnipeg Art Gallery Inuit Centre. Just last month, the busy L.A. practice scooped up a local commission to redesign the Sixth Street Bridge in Los Angeles into a spectacular concrete walkway.

But lest we forget, it takes more than some heady concepts and dreamy renderings to get the job done. Maltzan and his firm were sent back to the drawing board to revise plans for a pier renovation in St. Petersburg, Florida after scientists disputed the feasibility of the proposal’s main appeal: its underwater reef garden. Today, the firm released details of its revisions, and according to Tampa Bay’s WTSP.com, the redesign will add shaded balconies, vehicular transit, and another restaurant — features suggested by the local community — while taking away, to little surprise, the quasi-aquarium that helped christen the project “The Lens.” Scientists last month expressed discontent about not being involved in the pier design dialogue earlier, but clearly their skepticism has been noted. The plans were unveiled yesterday evening, with renderings to come in early December. So while Maltzan and his firm may have bit off more than they can chew, at least it seems they have been receptive to critical feedback. Perhaps the takeaway here is that renderings, no matter how compellingly illusionistic they are, are still a far stretch from reality.

- Kelly Chan