29 August 2008
Deputy Dog has big images of "nine amazingly unique bridges you may not have seen". Some are amazing and very attractive: the delightful Henderson Waves bridge in Singapore, for example. Arrayed on the opposite side are the strangely totalitarian Octavio Frias de Oliveira Bridge and the Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge, both in Brazil, triumphs of muscular spectacle but certainly not of elegance.
Also just out is the brochure for the Footbridge 2008 Awards. This has photos of all the winners and runners-up, plus extensive write-ups giving more background detail. There are few if any duds in here, with the Simone de Beauvoir Footbridge, Svratka River Bridge and the Sackler Crossing amongst the best of those featured. These are generally more sober structures than showcased at Deputy Dog, but they don't suffer for that.
27 August 2008
Viaduct price soars - The competition-winning Te Wero bridge (pictured above) in New Zealand has increased in budget from NZ$35m to NZ$51m. Some people remain keen, others note there are cheaper alternatives. Plenty of details at Auckland's project website including copies of the winning and runner-up submissions.
What are bridges for these days?
Venice cancels opening ceremony for hated Calatrava Bridge
Steel delay latest setback for Trinity River Bridge - another Calatrava bridge with cost concerns (pictured above)
Wear bridge designer's gloomy verdict - public consultation on secret competition-winning bridge due to start in September
14 August 2008
11 August 2008
07 August 2008
I thought it might be interesting to review some of their competitions and see whether taken as a whole, they can be seen as a successful path to bridge procurement or not. Their website only holds results from 2005 onwards, so I've limited myself to those - I'm ignoring earlier RIBA-run bridge competitions including the London Millennium Bridge and Butterfly Bridge in Bedford.
Where I can find the information, I've included some key facts, such as the number of entrants, and the cost of the bridge per square metre of deck (a non-iconic footbridge can be built for as little as £1,000 per square metre, and £4,000 - £6,000 should be sufficient for many landmark bridges).
River Wear Crossing
Invitation only, 35 expressions of interest reduced to 6 shortlisted entrants. Winner announced in September 2005 as Techniker with Spence Associates. Budget £43 million. As of today, the winning entry has never been publicly revealed. However, it appears that proposals to build a bridge are moving ahead, with attempts to secure government funding and the more recent announcement that government funding has been secured, albeit for a "bog-standard" bridge. Cost per square metre of deck would have been about £4,000 based on the original budget.
River Avon Footbridge
Invitation only, with 5 shortlisted entrants. Winner announced in January 2007 as Schlaich Bergermann with Ian Ritchie Architects. Budget £2 million. Cancelled in July 2008 when budget reached £3.3 million, having spent £312,000 to get to planning application stage. Cost per square metre of deck would have been about £17,500.
Leeds-Liverpool Canal Footbridge
Open competition, with 88 entrants. Winner announced in February 2007 as Eckersley O'Callaghan with Softroom. Budget £400k. By May 2008, the budget was then stated as £700k, but planning permission had been secured. An August 2008 start on site was forecast. Cost per square metre of deck is £7,000 (based on planning drawings available at http://www.sefton.gov.uk/Default.aspx?page=5297 - search for "Pennington Road").
New Islington Footbridge
Open competition, with 87 entrants. Winner announced in July 2007 as Michael Hadi Associates with Gollifer Langston. Again, I seem to recall an original budget of about £350k. I've been unable to find any evidence of progress since the winner was declared. Does anyone know otherwise?
Sheffield Parkway Footbridge
Open competition, with "over 100" entrants. Winner announced in January 2008 as Ramboll Whitbybird with Tim Norlund. Budget was quoted as £1.5m in the original brief, but has been stated as £2m elsewhere. For the span of 37m and width of 4m stated in the brief, the £1.5m budget gives a cost per square metre of deck of £10,100, but the proposed design looks to be longer than that, so the real figure is probably much lower! Again, I can find no evidence of further progress, but it's still early days for this one.
River Douglas Footbridge
Open competition with 110 entrants, reduced to shortlist of 7. Winner set to be announced later this year. Budget is stated as £2-3 million in the brief, for a bridge about 85m long and 4m wide. That's about £5,880 - £8,820 per square metre of deck.
So, for the last 4 years, we can report 2 competitions that ended by going nowhere (Wear, Avon); 1 that seems to be going well (Liverpool); and 3 where it's too early yet to say (New Islington, Sheffield, River Douglas). Considering the amount of money spent by various parties (particularly for the open competitions, where the combined cost to the economy of all the entrants' time could easily exceed £0.25m per competition), that might not seem to be very good value.
This isn't necessarily a poke at RIBA and their competition office. For the two obvious failures, the key themes seem to be a lack of proper funding, feasibility study, and commitment from the promoters. But any cost-benefit analysis of these competitions would show a considerable loss to the wider economy in wasted professional time, both by unsuccessful entrants, and at Stratford, by the successful ones. The need for proper preparation by a client before running such a competition seems very clear.
04 August 2008
The exhibition's catalogue shows 18 bridges, mostly reasonably current although including London's Millennium Bridge as something of a golden oldie (described somewhat daftly in the catalogue as "London's only pedestrian bridge"). Only 8 of these have actually been completed, which is fairly representative of the often uncertain funding situation for new landmark bridges.
The majority of the bridges are what can only be described as iconic, and several are structurally perverse, flag-bearing representatives of post-modernist abstraction. PoMo has finally hit the bridge design world several decades after building design, and of course any such trend is inescapable. However, bridge design more than building engineering cannot avoid the expression of structural form, and when the structure is as contorted and unnecessary as in several examples here, you have to ask whether there is a better approach.
The worst offenders include the Eel Net Bridge (pictured), Liverpool's Paradise Street Footbridge, and Bristol's Mobius Bridge. These follow the "blobitecture" trend where advanced CAD geometry allows the invention, analysis and construction of increasingly abstract forms, none of them bearing any relation to optimum structural behaviour. These blob-bridges are the post-modern descendents of the thin-shell and membrane engineering of masters like Eladio Dieste, Eduardo Torroja and Jörg Schlaich, and to my taste at least, completely lack the awe-inspiring elegance and charm of their ancestors.
It looks unlikely that I'll be in London to see the exhibition before it closes, so if anyone attends, please feel free to report in the comments!
Design for iconic cable-stayed bridge in Dubai completed (pictured above)
Michel Virlogeux interviewed - "We are in a very controversial period ... You have structures that are coming from fantasy, imagination and those from an artistic concept. This is not the way I like. I like structures for which the architecture is completely guided by the structural forces and the Millau Viaduct is a good example of th1at."
03 August 2008
- Amin Taha Architects, London
- Guy Nordenson & Associates, USA
- JDA with Arup, London
- Nick Hancock Design Studio, London
- NPS North West Ltd, Cumbria
- Ramboll Whitbybird with Priestman Goode, London
- t-hoch-n Architektur, Austria
There were 110 entries in total, which I think may be a new record, excessive even by the crazy standards of other recent RIBA open design competitions. It would be interesting to tot up the total amount of professional time spent on these competitions (at, say, £2k per entrant, that's over £200,000 spent on this single competition already). It might be even more interesting to compare that against what actually gets built and consider the cost/benefit balance to the various parties involved. Certainly, the client gets by far the best deal - loads of ideas for minimal outlay, plus as much publicity as they can squeeze out of it.
There are no pictures of any of the designs yet; apparently there will be public consultation in September.
The only non-shortlisted contender I could find on the web so far is by Architects in Residence. Please post in the comments if you find any others!
[PS: I ought to declare an interest, as I contributed to one of the 103 entries not shortlisted ...]