08 March 2012

London Bridges: 22. Green Bridge

I recently paid a visit to four interesting bridges in London’s east end, plus a couple more in central London, which I’ll cover over this and the next five posts.

The first is the Green Bridge in Mile End, which spans the A11 Mile End Road close to Mile End underground station. It was built in 2000 as part of a wider urban park scheme. It carries a footpath across the highway and thus provides a key link in a wider pathway running north to south through Mile End Park.

The conventional solution would have been the sort of bland pedestrian bridge which blights so many cityscapes, an identikit steel truss or concrete beam just wide enough to carry a walkway and cycle path. At Mile End, the designers, CZWG Architects and Mott MacDonald, came up with a concept which I think may be unique in the UK. Instead of simply carrying the pathway across the road, the landscape of the park is also continued.

The bridge spans 30 metres and is approximately 24 metres wide, with the path bordered on both sides by large areas of planting. These were being renewed at the time when I visited - it presents a fairly barren scene right now, but if you visit one of the various links at the foot of this post (or go to the designers' websites), you can see it in its more "fully clothed" glory.

From below, an effort has been made to recognise the structure’s status as a land bridge rather than a footbridge – it has a monolithic appearance, as if the soil that it carries had been solidified and merely wrapped to prevent it against weathering. In reality, it is more prosaic, as the glass-reinforced plastic panels which form the underside encapsulate an essentially conventional composite steel girder span.

The bridge is supported on reinforced concrete abutments and foundations, although these are again well disguised with a green-tiled façade which also serves to house a number of small shops. This façade is probably the most visually appealing element of the bridge. The GRP soffit panels have an attractive scale-like appearance arising from the curved layout of the bridge, but otherwise are looking somewhat careworn in places.

It’s an unspectacular structure, which is entirely appropriate to the site and function, and therefore admirable.

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