02 February 2015

Irish Bridges: 3. James Joyce Bridge, Dublin

Dublin is the lucky possessor of not one but two bridges by the renowned Spanish engineer, Santiago Calatrava. Both are highway bridges, spanning the River Liffey, built in steel and painted white. The James Joyce bridge is, by Calatrava’s flamboyant standards, an essentially modest design, completed in 2003. The other structure, the Samuel Beckett Bridge, is a case of extravagance at its most extravagant, a hugely gymnastic cable-stayed bridge with a passing resemblance to a harp, which is not only a piece of spectacularly ambitious sculpture, but adds to the spectacle by swinging open from time to time. On this very quick trip, I only had time to visit the simpler of the two bridges.

Designed in collaboration with Roughan O'Donovan, the James Joyce Bridge is one of Calatrava's better structures. It is relatively straightforward in conception, with two steel arches inclined outwards from a central highway, supporting the road and footways and helping define attractive and generous pedestrian spaces.

High strength Macalloy steel bars connect the deck to the arches, each hanger consisting of a pair of bars in a manner typical of Calatrava designs. The footways are supported on crossbeam cantilevers, and have a glass-block deck and glass-panel balustrades.

The overall form of the bridge is attractive from almost every perspective, but what I admire most about this bridge is the detailing, which has clearly been done with considerable care. It's a bridge simple in overall concept yet complex in the detail; I like it a lot.

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