The Endless Pier: A Study of Iconic Architecture via the St. Petersburg Pier

Kyle W. Pierson

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Liberal Arts, Department of Humanities, College of Arts and Sciences, University of South Florida St. Petersburg, July, 11, 2014.


Over the course of more than a century, the St. Petersburg Pier has become the visual symbol of the city. During that period, the pier has gone through three distinct iterations. First came a functional pier for cargo and passengers. In the 1920s, a grand Mediterranean Revival-style Million Dollar Pier was built. In 1967, it was torn down. In the 1970s, a strikingly modern Inverted Pyramid was built on the same spot. Today, the city seeks a new pier that would be “iconic.” However, the meaning of the term has not been made clear by city leaders. By studying the characteristics of iconic architecture around the world, I created an “Iconic Index” to measure the probable iconicity of a proposed new building. St. Petersburg would benefit by considering the lessons learned during this study; that iconic architecture (1) must exemplify the personality of its location, (2) does not have to be extravagant, (3) equals structure plus user experience, and, (4) can only be created when an iconic vision precedes it.