A pier is a raised structure, including bridge and building supports and walkways, typically supported by widely spread piles or pillars. The lighter structure of a pier allows tides and currents to flow almost unhindered, whereas the more solid foundations of a quay or the closely spaced piles of a wharf can act as a breakwater, and are consequently more liable to silting. Piers can range in size and complexity from a simple lightweight wooden structure to major structures extended over 1600 metres. In American English, pier may be synonymous with dock.
Piers have been built for several purposes, and because these different purposes have distinct regional variances, the term pier tends to have different nuances of meaning in different parts of the world. Thus in North America and Australia, where many ports were, until recently, built on the multiple pier model, the term tends to imply a current or former cargo-handling facility. In Europe in contrast, where ports more often use basins and river-side quays than piers, the term is principally associated with the image of a Victoriancast iron pleasure pier. However, the earliest piers pre-date the Victorian age.
The Brighton Marine Palace and Pier is a pleasure pier in Brighton, England. It is generally known as the Palace Pier for short, but has been informally renamed Brighton Pier since 2000 by its owners, the Noble Organisation, in an attempt to suggest that it is Brighton's only pier. The West Pier was its rival but was closed in 1975 and was subsequently severely damaged by fires and storms, with the remaining iron structure being partially demolished in 2010. Historically, The Royal Suspension Chain Pier can lay claim to being the original pier structure built in Brighton.