18 March 2009

Squiggly bridge unveiled

The Broomielaw-Tradeston Footbridge has been unveiled in Glasgow, with the shrouds which were present (pictured below left) while it was welded and painted removed last week (pictured right). It won't actually open to the public until May, but the video at STV's website gives some idea of what to expect.

The design, by Halcrow and Dissing + Weitling, won a design-and-build competition in the aftermath of the failed "glasgowbridge" competition. It was far less ambitious than the entries to the original competition, representing a much more sober, risk-averse approach to the crossing.

In the time of the credit crunch, the bridge looks somewhat forlorn (an impression enhanced by STV's melancholy video soundtrack). There was always doubt about whether this bridge actually led anywhere (in theory, it's to help regenerate the south bank of the River Clyde, but until the regeneration happens there's little to go and see). However, until the wider economy recovers, it's likely to look like something of a white elephant. Unlucky timing for a bridge meant to provide the area with a sense of excitement.

The lack of colour, and the pristine joint-free surfaces to the steelwork (see picture, right), give an air of artifice rather than robustness - to the layperson, the bridge might just as well be made of plastic, with so little evidence of its making. The arrow-head towers are basically cable-stay bridge towers, with the stays replaced by box girders in order to provide sufficient restraint to an ultra-thin deck that is curved (hence "Squiggly") in plan.

The geometry of the various arrowhead surfaces seems designed to bring it to a point at its tip, while keeping steelwork in simple planes for ease of fabrication. But the effect looks a little odd, especially on the shaft of the arrow, where the box member walls taper in different directions. I find the connection of the "stays" to the deck a little peculiar too, likewise the way in which the arrowheads offer only a very limited visual response to the curvature of the deck (compare for example the more dynamic pylons on the South Quay Footbridge in London, especially in its original full S-shaped configuration).

The use of box-girder stays instead of cables might present a tempting target to Glasgow's skaters, climbers, and drunks. I'm not sure whether the curved notch at the base of the "stays" (pictured left) is intended to try and reduce this, but it will be interesting to see how well it works in practice.

I admire the minimalist simplicity of the design, while longing for the far greater sense of occasion that the original competition entries generally offered. Only time will tell what the Glasgwegians think of it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It sucks!