26 January 2015

Irish Bridges: 2. Millennium Bridge, Dublin

There's a website set up to document Lancaster’s Lune Millennium Bridge, built in 2001, which also attempted to chronicle a number of other Millennial Bridges built thanks to funding fever in Britain at the turn of the century. Some of these are significant and well known structures, such as the bridge between St Paul’s Cathedral and Bankside in London. Others are obscure, and of at best local significance, such as the Pennyferry Bridge in Durham.

Dublin's contribution to this array of structures unfortunately fell closer to the latter type than the former. It spans the River Liffey to the west of the Ha'penny Bridge, a river already blessed with a very large number of spans in much closer proximity than is the case in most other capital cities. Designed by Price and Myers with Howley Harrington Architects, it seems to have been drawn from a bottle of imagination which had already been thoroughly drained.

The bridge is a 41m long, 4m wide triangulated metal truss, deeper at its ends than at its middle, a form of structure which often seems clumsily industrial rather than lightweight and high-tech. That's no different here, and it's one of the least visually attractive of central Dublin’s bridges.

Remarkably, this seemingly prosaic design was the winner in a design contest with some 157 entries, and has since gone on to win multiple awards.

Perhaps this is a good thing, reminding us that designs don't have to be absurdly spectacular to merit selection. It's clearly trying to be slender and elegant, but one unfortunate consequence of slimming down all its constituent members is that they more closely resemble scaffold tubes.

The design seems to echo a number of other Liffey bridges by being arched, albeit extremely gently. In fact, it's a two-pinned portal bridge, with chunky portal legs hidden within "balcony" extensions to the river bank at either end, and supported on steel hinges.

I am torn between my initial impressions of this bridge, which are overwhelmingly negative, and a sense that it is perhaps in some way admirable in its restraint. Other opinions would be welcome!

Further information:


Anonymous said...

Hi there
Please note that the architects for the Dublin Millennium Bridge were Howley Harrington Architects, not Sean Harrington Architects. Please can this be corrected on your blog.
thank you
Sean Harrington.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I've just found your blog and I think it's just perfect for me right now. I'm a student of English Studies and I've to do a kind of final project for my university degree under the name "Cultural and Literary Representations of the City: The Myth Making of Dublin bridges" (It proposes a cultural analysis of Dublin through its bridges, their names and identity construction).
I was wondering if you could recommend me some books I could work with (I would really apreciate that). Thank you and my congratulations on the blog!

The Happy Pontist said...

Peter Bishop's "Bridge" is a good general book about bridges written from a cultural studies angle.