Techniker with Lifschutz Davidson, completed in 1998 at a cost of £5m. It was originally intended as a transporter bridge, with a gondola active at low level. The bridge has, however, never seen enough use to justify installation of the gondola. The adjacent ExCeL exhibition centre is one of the venues for the London 2012 Olympic Games, which may see the bridge getting much greater use, at least for a short while.
There are very few bridges of the "inverted Fink truss" type around. The only other examples which come to mind are the Forthside Footbridge, at Stirling, and the Passerelle La Défense, in Paris, although there have been unbuilt proposals.
If the gondola is ever installed, I think that opinion would be reversed, and I think that seeing the bridge operate as a modern-version of a Ferdinand Arnodin-style transporter bridge would be quite splendid.
A short distance to the north, an elevated walkway structure connects ExCeL to a Docklands Light Railway station, but the possibility of connecting this directly to the bridge via a ramp has so far been missed.
Viewed in elevation (as in the first photo above), the stair and lift towers, which are heavily metal clad, have a monolithic, blocky character totally out of keeping with the rest of the bridge. However, the bridge is generally viewed from a much more acute angle, and the towers are less problematic from most perspectives.
Alberto Giacometti. The deck is just that, a promenade-style walkway translated vertically, and set upon comically spindly stilts. This is not entirely a bad thing, it emphasises the sense of the bridge as a platform rather than as a pathway.
I find the relationship of the above-deck masts to the below-deck support legs to be less admirable - it would have been great to have seen single legs relying only on cables for lateral stability. The sense of incongruity is enhanced by the adoption of a cigar-shape for both the legs and the masts, although this makes structural sense.
The bridge deck at first seems very slender, although at deck level, it is apparent that this is because most of the spine beam box girder has been allowed to protrude upwards through the decking.
Castleford Footbridge. However, at Royal Victoria Dock, the opportunity to create areas of seating was missed. The boxes resemble upturned boat hulls, part of a nautical theme that persists throughout the structure (with its spars, cables, and bowsprits), but I think seats would have been preferable.
The Royal Victoria Dock Bridge is described by its designer, Matthew Wells, as having "reacted strongly against the prevailing fashion for iconic bridge structures presented as catalysts for urban renewal" (in Engineers: A History of Engineering and Structural Design (2010)). While there has been very little urban renewal at the site (the ExCeL centre is pretty much it), it's hard to see a bridge of this scale, idiosynractic choice of form, and modernist starkness as anything other than iconic.
I'll finish by noting that there were plans to supplement this bridge with another further along the dock. In early 2010, a competition was announced, subsequently won by Ian Ritchie Architects. Ritchie came up with a number of suggestions, including a floating bridge, but a unique swing bridge solution, the "water boatman" was the favourite until Olympics funding cutbacks killed the entire scheme. It only emphasises what a mistake it was to require the 1998 structure to be so high in the air - while it resulted in a very heroic, spectacular design, it provides far from the ideal pedestrian experience.
- Google maps / Bing maps
- LDDC History
- The Architecture of Bridge Design (Bennett, 1997)
- 30 Bridges (Wells, 2002)
- Bridge Builders (Pearce & Jobson, 2002)
- Bridges (Arcila, 2003)
- Footbridges (Schlaich & Baus, 2008)
- An Encyclopaedia of Britain's Bridges (McFetrich, 2010)
- The World of Footbridges (Idelberger, 2011)