03 January 2009

Bridges news roundup

First footbridge to be built by 90-year old
I don't mean the first by any nonagenarian, just one in particular, architect Paolo Soleri, who is perhaps best known for his utopian eco-village Arcosanti. Hopefully the finished bridge will look better than in the only visualisation I could find (click for full-size version).

If only. But a fee of US$3.3m to design a footbridge (or possibly two - the story isn't clear) seems somewhat on the generous side. This is the latest story in the always entertaining Calgary & Calatrava saga, which also features this amusing quote from the city's transport team, attempting to justify their recommendation not to put the design contract out to normal competition:

"Over the past two decades Calatrava's designs have revolutionized bridge construction from dull, mechanical instruments into elegant objects"
I'll bet all the many other talented designers around the world who've been active over the same period love being treated as mere footnotes in bridge design history.

The image (click for full version) shows the bridge in question (taken from Tekla website). Council spokeswoman: "The bridge is, by design, a suspension bridge and will therefore inevitably be subject to a certain degree of movement." Well, it's technically cable-stayed rather than suspension, but never mind.

What seems odd about it on first viewing is that the mast, which is hinged at its base, is inclined towards the deck, where on many similar curved footbridges it inclines away (e.g. South Quay). The mast is shown as tied down towards the deck, when you'd expect a stay cable in the exact opposite direction. The local news story also makes what seems an entirely spurious connection to the notorious Millennium Bridge.

It's not entirely clear why this is news now, as the bridge would seem to have been wobbling ever since it opened two months ago.

Newport Transporter Bridge is one of only three surviving transporter bridges in the UK and one of only eight worldwide. It has been closed since August 2008 but the local council has agreed to find the money to repair and reopen it.
It's quite criminal that these irreplaceable historic structures are allowed to fall out of use (and beyond that into ruin), with at present the Middlesborough bridge being the only one working in the UK (Warrington's bridge has been disused for nearly 50 years and is likely to be lost as it serves no useful purpose at its original site). (Image courtesy of James Stringer).

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