March 2021 saw the start of restoration works on the walkway of the iconic Pier in Blankenberge. Due to extensive deterioration of the concrete, it could not be repaired. A new gangway was the only solution. As of today [19/4 2023], visitors can once again walk on the 259-metre-long walkway in the sea and around the head building, a first major step in finalising the restoration of this unique structure.
The walkway was reconstructed to Jules Soete's original 1933 design, using contemporary materials and techniques. Profiling and black and white colour shades were respected as much as possible. Today, the footpath is again provided with seats, just as it was during the Interbellum.
The restoration attracted a lot of spectators to the construction site. A metre-high, seaworthy cofferdam (a double row of sheet piling) was built from the seafront. This unique construction could withstand the heaviest sea waves, allowing the contractor to work dry and safely. The Pier with its brasserie and party room also remained accessible at all times during the works: in fact, two temporary, alternative concrete roads were constructed to the head building. From these roads, visitors and residents could follow the work at close quarters.
Although pedestrians can once again stroll along the walkway, the finishing touches are still for the coming months. The semicircular abutment in connection with the dike will still be restored and the temporary access roads to the head building and accompanying sheet piling will be removed, so that the beach under and around the Pier will once again be fully accessible. The work should be finalised later this year, well ahead of the expected end of works in 2025.
This unique structure is the only pier on the Belgian coast. Since the first pier was built, there have been three versions of the head building. The first pier, a cast-iron structure from 1893-94, was blown up by the Germans at the beginning of WWI. It was not until 1933 that a new one was built, this time in concrete. The concrete Pier survived WWII, but did not withstand the inclement sea climate and seawater and soon showed signs of concrete rot. After several patching attempts, it was decided in the late 1990s to completely renovate the head building. This was finished in 2003. Meanwhile, the current restoration of the metre-long gangway is almost complete. It had been struggling with concrete rot for years and could not be repaired. The walkway was reconstructed based on the 1933 model, using existing plans and historical photos.
The Pier was featured on the VRT television news. Watch the fragment here.
Read more in De Standaard.
Stay updated on the project here.