A beautiful blinking eye

Words:
Neil Thomas

Neil Thomas of Atelier One is inspired by the beauty and elegance of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, designed by Wilkinson Eyre and engineered by Gifford

The bridge deck rotates up to allow large river traffic to pass beneath.
The bridge deck rotates up to allow large river traffic to pass beneath. Credit: Graeme Peacock

I walked across this bridge many times while working on the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. When closed, it is quite spectacular, and a beautifully balanced piece of engineering. However nothing prepares you for the surprise when the bridge begins to rotate. 

Jim Eyre’s explanation of its genesis is ridiculously simple. When closed, the bridge was required to be 4.5m above the Tyne’s spring level, allowing small traffic. A direct connection between each quayside would be too steep. However he realised that curving the deck in plan could achieve the length required to produce a shallower incline. 

Here was the stroke of genius. He noticed that the bend of the deck to form the necessary curve was now 25m – the exact dimension that was required for clearance for large river traffic when the bridge was open. By simply rotating the horizontal deck, an arch structure to suspend the deck became obvious. 

The complex steel arch, made by Watson’s of Bolton [now Severfield (UK)], uses a varying kite section to alter the perception of the solidity of the arch. The entire structure was transported by floating crane on the Tyne and installed in one piece.

Truly a work of genius.


 

Jim Eyre’s sketch shows the concept for the footbridge in open and closed form.
Jim Eyre’s sketch shows the concept for the footbridge in open and closed form. Credit: Wilkinson Eyre Architects

 

Latest

As BDP rapidly turns London’s ExCel Centre into a hospital for coronavirus patients, Hugh Pearman talks to Architects for Health chair Christopher Shaw about the priorities and practicalities of emergency conversions

The people supplying 20,000 more acute beds in three to six weeks

This Corsham-based practice, our third Future Winner 2020, is determined to maintain its balance of interesting projects and high quality of life

Interesting projects and high quality of life – can these Future Winners keep the balance as they grow?

Ruth Ramsden’s perceptive appraisal of the role and design of the shopping centre by way of Watford’s latest example, netted her third place in the RIBAJ/Future Architects writing competition

Ruth Ramsden’s RIBAJ/Future Architects essay on the architecture of shopping centres

Generative residential design tool commissioned by Make Architects automatically produces floor layout options by assessing building mass

Generative residential Revit plug-in will make feasibility studies faster

Huge bridge projects from Bahrain to Washington are benefiting from the input of this small consultancy, our second Future Winner of 2020, based near Bridport on the Jurassic Coast

Boring, dirty projects? Bring them on