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!