The next few posts follow something of a guerilla tour around the footbridges of Paddington Basin, London. This canal terminus has undergone considerable redevelopment over the last decade, and a number of bridges have been installed both to improve access and to gain attention through their novelty value.
Before visiting, I'd heard of a fellow bridge photographer who had been unable to take pictures on the site thanks to over-zealous security guards. I'm a pontist, not a terrorist, but I thought it best to take photos quickly and not hang around. You'll therefore have to bear with me if some of the photos aren't of the best quality.
Somewhat prosaically also known as the "East Bridge", the tiny Helix Bridge provides access across the east end of the canal basin at Paddington. Completed in 2003, it spans a mere 7.2m. It was designed by Buro Happold with artist Marcus Taylor, and built by Davy Markham.
It is designed to retract, giving the impression of a corkscrew as it does so, albeit very, very slowly, moving at a snail-like 75mm per second. The "corkscrew" effect is simulated: the enclosure assembly rotates on bearings within the two circular end hoops. These in turn are supported from a retractable 2m wide walkway structure, which cantilevers from one end. This sits on a powered trolley, which runs on rails. As the walkway retracts, the enclosure rotates.
The 3.5m diameter enclosure comprises 15mm thick curved glass panels, glued to the tubular framing. The main spiral element is a 140mm diameter stainless steel tube. The bridge has clearly been altered since construction, with what were previously transparent panels now replaced or covered in blue material. I presume this is a response to vandal-related glass breakages.
I gather that the bridge has not been able to operate for some time, and have seen a comment from British Waterways on an online canal forum that it would "cost a considerable sum of money to repair", clearly disproportionate to the value that opening provides. BW also report that the bridge is due to be replaced by a new lifting bridge, presumably one with a less complex mechanism, and hopefully not destined for a similarly early graveyard.