29 May 2009

London Bridge 800: Design an Inhabited Bridge

Marking the 800th anniversary of the opening of Old London Bridge in 1209, RIBA has announced an "ideas" competition to design a new inhabited bridge on the site. The original bridge (long since replaced with a new concrete box structure) was of course one of the most famous "living bridges" of all time. Entries should be made by 25th June, and the winner will be announced in conjunction with the bridge's Anniversary Fair on 11th July.

RIBA asks designers to assume that the existing structure could carry a further six storeys of building, and largely to ignore the impractical absurdity of the entire venture in favour of creativity and inspiration (see briefing paper [PDF]).

I've discussed the Peabody Trust and Royal Academy bridge competitons here previously, both of which sought essentially the same goal, an inhabited bridge over the Thames. The concept has been most recently revived by London mayor Boris Johnson. There's nothing about the present competition to change the view that an inhabited bridge like this is both impractical and visually undesirable, a wall across the river.

Nonetheless, I'd be having a go at the contest myself, were it not restricted only to architects. RIBA, as ever, protects its own, even at the expense to the competition of reducing the chances for entries which are not only creative, but also potentially more practical.

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