25 July 2008

River Wear bridge design remains top secret

Back in 2005, Spence Associates and Techniker won the RIBA bridge competition for a £43m new highway bridge over the River Wear in Sunderland. The design has never been taken forward, and nor has it ever been revealed to the public. Quite why it is so top secret is anyone's guess, but Stephen Spence is clearly losing patience, as he has now called for the design to be revealed.

Apparently Sunderland Council have even turned down a Freedom of Information request to reveal the design. Spence states:

"You see so many schemes that never even materialise in which they proudly
show the designs. Here we have a lot of the money secured but no

That hardly seems unreasonable. The local regeneration company, Sunderland Arc, seemed to be using the competition as a way to get wider publicity for their local schemes, but it's hard to see how this can be achieved without actually letting anyone see the winning design.


Anonymous said...

I've seen the design. Why it was chosen as the winner for a project intended to cost £43 million is beyond me. But then again the Spence/Expedition Engineering design which won the Stockton footbridge competition (shown in the Journal article) was submitted for a competition with a budget of £4 million. Final budget? £15 million.

The Happy Pontist said...

I'll have something more detailed to say on the River Wear bridge in a future post. Cost inflation is a common problem with design competitions (again, more on this later); some of it because promoters don't set realistic budgets to begin with; and some of it because certain designers have little real appreciation of the cost of their more outlandish creations.

The Happy Pontist said...

The government have now committed funding to build a bridge at this site, although no decision has yet been made on the actual design that will be adopted. The money is apparently sufficient for a "bog-standard" bridge. The Spence / Techniker competition-winning design would require additional funding from the local council. I have to say, I think that's very unlikely to happen!

The Happy Pontist said...

There's more detail on this story at Journal Live. This talks about a "suspension bridge formed from two gigantic Bull’s Horn-style posts emerging from the river banks meeting together to form an arc from which the road is suspended", but notes that significant technical work on this design is still required.