29 June 2010

Scottish Bridges: 8. South Portland Street Suspension Bridge

It's always interesting to contrast bridges by day and by night, so I was pleased recently to make a return trip in the hours of darkness to the Tradeston Bridge, which I'd only previously seen by day. I also took the chance to have a quick look at a few other bridges along Glasgow's River Clyde.

I'll cover the bridges I looked at in order from east to west, starting with the South Portland Street Suspension Bridge.

This footbridge incorporates the oldest surviving elements of any of Glasgow's bridges across the river Clyde, with its stone towers dating from 1853. It replaced a timber bridge on the same site, which had lasted from 1833-1846. Designed by engineer George Martin with architect Alexander Kirkland, the new bridge required substantial reconstruction in 1871, leaving it essentially in its present form, although the hangers have been replaced twice more since then.

The bridge has been illuminated at night since 2005, with well over 2,000 LED lights involved. I first saw the bridge at night, and was surprised at quite how malevolently crimson it is lit, as if the bridge had not long emerged from Vulcan's furnace. You can see the twin sets of bridge chains, one above the other, and the hangers and parapets are reasonably well delineated, but the towers just look somewhat morose.

In the day time, it became clear how awkward the lighting is, totally obliterating the contrast between the stonework, the red steelwork, and the white steelwork lattice panels. It's odd, because the press release issued when the lighting was installed said that the towers would be lit in white, and more use of white light would definitely have looked much better.

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