17 January 2009

Bridge competition debris part 5: Stratford-upon-Avon

Late last year I briefly discussed with a fellow bridge designer how difficult it can be to trace the history of design competitions. The advent of Google makes it tempting to think that all knowledge is at your fingertips, but of course this isn't the case at all. Websites disappear (competition websites are often taken down after the project fails and the promoter loses interest), and much of the rich history of the bridge design competition predates widespread use of the internet anyway.

Some help is at hand: sites like europaconcorsi and e-architect take an interest in archiving designs that were never built, and can be a useful if incomplete resource.

In 2008, I offered a set of four posts of "bridge competition debris": the winners and losers from New Islington, Bootle, Sheffield Parkway and River Douglas, with the aim of bringing together images that otherwise are hard to find and may eventually be inaccessible. I thought that would be that, but now think there is scope to continue further.

So the next in this continuing series is the 2006 Stratford-upon-Avon footbridge competition, run (like all those above) by RIBA. There were over 60 expressions of interest, with 5 competitors shortlisted. After the winner had spent some time developing their design (and the client had spent over £300k), the project was cancelled in July 2008 as costs had risen more than 50% above the promoter's original £2m budget.

The Warwickshire County Council website currently features plenty of detail on the competition, including consultation documents, reports, and a copy of the winning design's presentation board.

So what about the designs themselves? The client shortlisted a good set of teams, although it's very unfortunate that they missed the opportunity to let new talent have a go.

The winner was a good choice - minimal, unintrusive in the setting, and a good opportunity on a small-span footbridge to push the limits of design somewhat. It's a shame that costs derailed it. The Wilkinson Eyre design has very obvious similarities to their Floral Street bridge [PDF]. I think at this scale it looks over-fussy and over-deep. In a similar manner, the Flint and Neill design has echoes of their cranked stress-ribbon Kent Messenger bridge. Whitbybird's scheme seems very much out of scale with the site to my eyes.

As always, click on any image for a full-size version. Please note that while there are definite references on the web linking two of the designers to their images, I can't find definitive links for the other three, and have guessed the designers' identities based on what I know of them.


Schlaich Bergermann & Partners / Ian Ritchie Architects


Arup / Wilkinson Eyre

Buro Happold / Spence Associates

Flint & Neill / Dissing + Weitling



In asking for expressions of interest, RIBA were looking for details of potential competitors' past experience, not actual bridge designs. But judging from the example below, they must have received at least one ...

Public House / Webb Yates [PDF]

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