The site was the city's Anglican Cathedral, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's great edifice towering above the edge of St James' Cemetery, a former quarry which had been converted to a burial ground in 1829, and then into a public garden in 1972. In its present form, this artificial canyon acts as a 50-foot deep barrier, preventing access to the Cathedral's south face from nearby Hope Street.
Scott had himself proposed a bridge across the sunken quarry (pictured, right), but this traditionally styled arch viaduct was never started. Construction of the Cathedral had begun in 1904, but it was only formally declared complete in 1978, and the bridge was dropped from the plans as work progressed.
Proposals were again made for a bridge by students at Liverpool University in 1948, and published in the Architectural Review. Their scheme was for a far more modern reinforced concrete arch (pictured, left), but this was somewhat speculative and again, never realised.
The 2004 competition was organised by Dr Robert MacDonald, an architectural lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University. This again was somewhat speculative - there was no funding, and I gather that the Cathedral's support for the proposal was somewhat ambiguous. The hope was that a good idea might attract sufficient funding to become reality, particularly with Liverpool's status as European City of Culture on the horizon in 2008.
The open competition was announced in Building Design magazine, and 23 entries were received. A shortlist was drawn up, and the winner eventually announced in June 2005 as Buro Happold with Hakes Associates. However, the project never did secure funding, and the bridge remains unbuilt.
There are many bridge design competitions which stand on similarly shaky foundations - in recent years, RIBA's River Douglas contest comes to mind as another case where considerable creativity was devoted to a scheme which had no committed funding behind it. Like the RIBA contest, the Liverpool competition attracted a wide variety of entrants, from the seasoned professionals to students, many from people with little understanding of basic structural engineering. Nonetheless, the "glass theme" and the challenging site led to several very interesting designs.
As ever, links are only provided to a competitor if they have a website with more information. Click on the thumbnail images for full-size versions. All images have been provided courtesy of Rob MacDonald but are the copyright of the original competitors. Contestants are invited to get in touch if they want an image removed or can identify the one or two images where I couldn't identify the entrant.
Buro Happold / Hakes Associates
Carl Thompson Associates
"Angel Rising" (designer not known)
Studio Bednarski / Jiri Strasky
"Bridge of Faith" (designer unknown)
Dewhurst Macfarlane / Aire Design