RCKA takes on Weston-super-Mare’s troubled Tropicana lido

North Somerset Council appointed the studio to give the iconic seaside attraction ‘a new lease of life’ as a ‘nationally significant multi-use entertainment space’ with a construction programme that is both ‘pragmatic and far-sighted’.

The Art Deco pool, which has been closed since 2000, famously hosted Banksy’s Dismaland in 2015 and the See Monster public art installation in 2022.

But before these headline-grabbing events, the pool had been largely neglected, with several architects making unsuccessful attempts to revive the site.

An early effort to redevelop the landmark came from Scott Brownrigg + Turner in 2003. This was followed by a contentious scheme including a multiplex cinema by Mountford Pigott four years later, an ambitious competition-winning scheme by FaulknerBrowns in 2011, low-key retrofit proposals by Ferguson Mann Architects with S&P, and another conservation-led scheme by Bristol-based Arturus.

In 2012 the local authority even put forward proposals to flatten the 1937 complex at a cost of £700,000.

But the council now says that a regular programme of temporary events at the under-used seafront site has ‘demonstrated an appetite for a sustainable long-term future’.

The project is part of the council’s placemaking vision for the town, made possible thanks to a successful bid for £20 million from the UK government’s Levelling Up Fund, with £3 million being added by the council.

RCKa said its approach had been inspired by postcards from the Tropicana in the 1980s, ‘showing crowds of people enjoying themselves in the waterpark, with over-sized fruit sculptures sitting alongside the more restrained 1930s Art Deco buildings’.

The practice added: ‘That vibrancy and sense of celebrating creativity – while not taking itself too seriously – was the essence of the spirit that [we] now seek to recapture in giving the Tropicana a new lease of life.’

RCKa is working in partnership with WSP on plans to improve and repair the existing structure, ‘making it resilient and fit for purpose’. This will precede a major public engagement programme leading to proposals to revive the Tropicana as a ‘commercially viable and highly flexible venue’ that can be used for a range of entertainment activities.

The practice said it wanted to ‘broaden the building’s focus beyond Weston’s seasonal visitor economy’, creating spaces for ‘everyday’ activities to improve the daily lives of local people, while bringing additional social value to the town.

RCKa director Dieter Kleiner said: ‘Creative infrastructure is vital to supporting thriving places and communities, and we believe that the sky’s the limit in terms of the Tropicana’s ability to raise the profile of creativity and culture in North Somerset.’

North Somerset Council’s executive member responsible for seafronts, events and concessions, Mike Solomon, said: ‘This is one of our priorities in our Levelling Up funded programme. It will provide a welcome boost to Weston, helping to increase footfall and spending, and turning local sites, such as the Tropicana, into must-visit destinations.’

He added: ‘We are a council that listens and prioritises action on the things that are really important to local people. We are ambitious for Weston, and North Somerset, and are determined to deliver long-term investment that will make the town an even greater place to live, learn, work and play.’

An exact timescale is not yet known but construction is expected to start at the end of this summer. It is understood that money from the Levelling Up Fund originally had to be spent by March 2025, though the council has sought an extension for this.