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Newsletter, January 2004 (Issue 154)

Designs for a New Bridge


The Conservation Advisory Panel recently had the privilege of discussing three designs for a pedestrian and cycle bridge over the New Cut.

In May 2001 four architectural practices were invited to submit designs for the proposed bridge. Ten were submitted. The ten were reduced to five and then, following a structural audit, further reduced to the three presented to the Panel. A most interesting and lively debate followed the presentations. Almost uniquely the Panel were being asked to choose between options rather than criticise a single proposal. There was warm support for all designs, reflecting the time and effort the teams had put into the competition. Two of the three designs had similarities - an arch spanning the river with a deck suspended by wires from the soffit.

The first presentation was from a consortium led by architect Craig Driver with Robert Robinson from SCC Property and Rob Seller of MLM Consulting Engineers. They showed the Panel some excellent computer images of a single parabolic steel arch set at right angles to the river supporting a box girder deck. The deck is not parallel with the arch but skewed into a sinuous shape to encourage a seamless flow of pedestrian and cycle traffic. The 3 metre wide deck opens to 5m in the middle where the suspension wires are attached. [see below]

KLH Architects, again with MLM as consulting engineers, also presented an arch, this time in reinforced concrete with solid fish-tailed feet. KLH's arch is semi-circular with the possibility of an interesting full circle reflection when the tide reaches high water. The span is divided into three with a pair of cables supporting a rib under the deck at the one-third and two-thirds points. KLH were represented by Robert Keeble and Martin Goodwin supported by John Hawkins of MLM. Whereas the first design was slender and had dr-awn inspiration from maritime connections, KLH had chosen a more robust structure suited to the current industrial landscape. [top opposite]

The final submission was by Paul Matthews of The Landscape Partnership, a unique design presented as a "4D Bridge". The self-supporting structure would be a space frame of large diameter hollow tubes with a wire mesh deck, possibly with a solid central section. The "wow" factor comes from a spiral helix which springs out of each bank initially providing support for the steps but then spins across the river above the deck in a single twist. The helix would be a steel tube containing spot lights and a continuous strip of fibre optic light. [bottom design below] Both KLH and The Landscape Partnership had used considerable resource to build a model for their proposals. Unusually SCC have chosen to have the bridge designed before funding has been earmarked, in the hope that with the opportunity for a stunning design the money will be found quickly.

The Millennium Commission contributed funds to 27 bridges ranging from £525,000 for the Torrs Walkway in the Goyt Valley to £22 million for the Wilkinson Eyre Blinking Eye connecting Newcastle with the Baltic Arts Centre in Gateshead. Now there's an opportunity for a stunning bridge in Ipswich.

JOHN NORMAN, Vice-Chairman

    Front cover of issue 154 Cover, issue 154

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