11 August 2009

Sheffield Parkway Bridge dropped

In the latest in a long line of recent RIBA bridge design competition failures, plans for an "iconic" footbridge over Sheffield Parkway have been dropped. The winning design, by Tim Nørlund Jensen and Ramboll Whitbybird, is apparently to be ditched because of "increased costs".

Nørlund and Ramboll fought their way past 108 other entries in order to win the competition in January 2008. The architect claims not to have been paid for working on a number of design developments requested by the client, Yorkshire Forward, other than his original £7,000 honorarium. That may say more about the inevitable risks of working without a formal contract than anything else, however. The risk that a winning designer may not get appointed to do the follow-on design work is inherent in many bridge design competitions, particularly the open format preferred by the RIBA.

There's no information on the extent to which the costs have increased, with Yorkshire Forward only saying: "The Parkway Bridge is currently undergoing a design review as a result of the increased costs for the original structure. The current economic downturn and subsequent prioritising of investments have resulted in different options for the bridge being considered."

Presumably, these "different options" include having no bridge at all, suggesting that the business case for having the scheme at all was somewhat lacking. If so, it's another slap-in-the-face to the dozens of competitors who entered the contest with a good faith assumption that this was a serious project with a genuine likelihood of being built. A comment on a previous post suggested a cheaper bridge is in the works.

Ironically, the winning design has just been included in a RIBA 175th anniversary exhibition at Manchester's CUBE gallery.

Of the seven RIBA competions I discussed in 2008 and again in 2009, none have yet been built, and only two remain under active design development.


Anonymous said...

108 entries on 2 x A3 boards which gave the jury about 2 minutes to assess each entry if they actually took time to read the text and technical description.

If there really are 108 practices / teams in the UK to design a bridge like this (not) then each entry probably represented about 30K professional / input time at the least.

What a terrible waste and bad form by RIBA.

A good selection process or simply chocolate box competition?

This is like choosing a wine in the supermarket just because the label looks pretty.

No wonder the one they got turned out to be corked.

The Happy Pontist said...

I'm fairly certain that a large number of entries to these competitions are rejected on first sight without any accompanying text being read. The importance of a professional-looking and eye-catching entry therefore will tend to take precedence over anything that is relatively ordinary or technically astute.

For my own part, I've entered some of the RIBA open competitions and my expenditure (even including unpaid staff time) certainly doesn't come close to £30k - I always try to keep the expense commensurate with the chance of success.