07 April 2019

Bridge competition debris part 29: Network Rail Footbridge Design Ideas Competition

I posted last July when Network Rail announced this contest, but what with one thing and another, I've neglected to write about the result.

Quick recap: Network Rail were looking for ideas which were "innovative, challenge presumptions and raise expectations for the quality of future designs". The contest ran alongside a more conventional commission for a consultant team to refresh the organisation's station footbridge designs, which led to the appointment in October of Arup and Knight Architects.

The ideas competition was open to pretty much any entrant, offering a £20,000 prize fund but no commitment to use the winning idea or to commission any further work.

The winner was announced in December as Gottlieb Paludan Architects, Denmark, with Strasky, Husty and Partners Ltd, Czech Republic (above). The judges also highly commended a design from Hawkins\Brown with WSP (below).

There were a further 18 entries on the judges' longlist. In total, 121 entries were submitted, so clearly something about this contest struck a chord amongst the creative professions. Given the very low probability of actually getting any significant reward, it's interesting how many well-known names took part, but perhaps also unsurprising that many entries look like they were dashed off in a spare lunch-break.

One thing that strikes me about the entries is the proportion which adopt a modern or futuristic approach. I believe the competition identified the need for station footbridges which would link railway platforms in both a new-build context, and also upgrades to existing stations, some of them heritage settings. Network Rail included examples of historic lattice-truss bridges in the material they supplied to entrants, but very few designers submitted ideas which appear adaptable to different settings. There were quite a few entries with a latticework theme, but hardly any which looked adaptable to many situations.

Another thing that jumps out is that this competition probably created a significant learning opportunity - assuming (from the quality of the design images) that many of the entries will have been prepared by younger professionals, it must have been a marvellous opportunity to test out their design and illustration skills.

Many of the entries are impractical, even amongst those where an engineer is named as well as an architect. However, I think it's clear that a good proportion of entrants did understand that this was a contest about ideas - the more pragmatic looking entries generally didn't make the longlist.

I can strongly recommend spending a few minutes checking out the competition website. I'm only going to include the winning, highly commended and long-listed designs here, but although there's a fair bit of dross, there are also quite a number of thought-provoking concepts, and one or two interesting styles of illustration.

Winner: Gottlieb Paludan Architects / Strasky, Husty and Partners Ltd
The winning design is beautifully presented and highly minimalist in its conception: a staple-shaped deck below a staple-shaped roof, modular and suitable for a variety of spatial arrangements.

Highly Commended: Hawkins\Brown / WSP
Like the winner, this is a modular, adaptable design, but with the structure and architecture secondary to the potential for a bridge as a social and commercial space. It's a smart, enticing idea, perhaps well-suited to some urban locations but over-ambitious for most other sites.

Long list (selected images only: see competition website for more)

Luca Poian Forms, UK with Soluxn Ltd

Weston Williamson + Partners, UK with AKT II Ltd

Atkins Architecture, UK

 PHASE3 Architecture + Design, UK with AKT II Ltd

Miguel Costa, Andy Fisher, Melanie Davison, Priscille Rodriguez & Jan Verhagen

CF.Architects, UK with Cake Industries

Softroom, UK with Eckersley O'Callaghan and Inverse Lighting

[Y/N] Studio, UK

 Xing Design Studio, People's Republic of China

 Pelizziarchitettura, Italy

 Squire and Partners, UK

 Marks Barfield Architects, UK with COWI

 Sweco Architects, Sweden with Sweco Civil and Sweco Structures

 Method Architecture, UK

 Kashdan Brown Architects Ltd, UK

 AWW, UK with Mott MacDonald

 Metropolitan Studio of Architecture, Pakistan

 Fereday Pollard Architects, UK

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