Ah, what a wonderful thing is the internet. The organisers of the Nine Elms / Pimlico bridge design competition helpfully made all 74 entries available to the public online and via public exhibitions. Initially, they made one image of each design available, although this represented only 30% of what each competing team was actually judged on. Initially, all the entries were displayed anonymously in the online gallery, so that the public would view each design in a fair manner, however, the organisers have recently revealed precisely who did what, and for most of the entries have now made available the second design board, allowing us to see 60% of what they were marked upon.
It's an impressive field of entrants. I think all the British specialist bridge architects are represented (although none was chosen as a finalist), and there are also big names (in different ways) such as Zaha Hadid, Ney and Partners, Marc Mimram, Dietmar Feichtinger, RFR, Expedition, HOK, Rafael Vinoly, SOM, Snøhetta, Foster and Partners and more.
Ove Arup and Partners participated in a staggering 17 entries, and Buro Happold in 9. No other entrant even comes close. This is not a new strategy in bridge design competitions, but it paid off, with Arup and Happold together providing three out of the four finalists.
Here are the six "runners-up", entries which the jury felt deserved some kind of recognition. Links take you to their detailed design boards, at least for as long as they remain online. I'm not going to cover any of the other entries here, there are just too many, but I will return to this contest one more time to discuss it further.
Wilkinson Eyre Architects Ltd with Aecom, Atelier One and Schlaich Bergermann
What's especially surprising about this design is that there are no cycle ramps, only cycle channels within staircases - these are okay for keen adult cyclists going upwards, but useless in the downwards direction and for younger or less fit cyclists. As this is a key challenge for the contest and the site, how on earth did this get judged as a runner-up?
Farshid Moussavi Architecture with Bollinger and Grohmann Ingenieure
Temenos, and mistaken it as an idea for a bridge. It's not. The design boards talk about the arches being inclined backwards to counter-balance the cable forces, but they're not shown with sufficient weight, stiffness or inclination for this to be at all feasible.
The ramps also lack credibility, especially at the south end of the bridge where there simply isn't space in reality for the length of ramp illustrated.
Eric Parry Architects Ltd with Richard Deacon AKTII
Atkins Ltd with Grimshaw Architects
South Quay Footbridge in London's Docklands, at least in its original configuration, with two inclined masts supporting an S-shaped deck. It's a rational solution, with ramp arrangements and engineering which makes sense, although I think the giant glowsticks have a garishness more appropriate to a children's Halloween party than blown up at this scale. But it's not a big sin.
The deck is very wide, 10m, and this requires cable stays on both sides of the deck, which is a less elegant solution than at South Quays.
Coffey Architects with Buro Happold
Ove Arup and Partners Ltd with Studio Egret West
There are some nice features, like a cafe below its southern ramp, and a proposal to build the two halves parallel to the river and then rotate them into their final position. But these have to be set against a bizarre intention to cross-over the cycle and pedestrian routes at midspan, introducing an entirely pointless mid-river pedestrian crossing.
The contest organisers have now released the jury report to competitors, and once I've had time to digest it, I'll return with some final thoughts on this competition.