26 April 2018

Yorkshire Bridges: 24. Crown Point Bridge, Leeds


This is the next bridge across the River Aire in Leeds, proceeding west from Knight's Way Footbridge.

Crown Point Bridge was built in 1842, and is Listed Grade II. The Listing states that it was designed by George Leather, but an ICE obituary attributes the bridge to George's son, John Wignall Leather. The pair played a key part in development in the Leeds area at the time, developing the Aire and Calder Navigation, and a series of bridges, including Monk Bridge (1827), Victoria Bridge (1839) and the Stanley Ferry Aqueduct (1839).

The Crown Point Bridge was constructed to provide a connection to new areas of Leeds then undergoing development, and was authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1840. In its original form, it comprised ten parallel cast iron arch ribs, spanning 120 feet.

The cast iron elements were supplied by Booth and Co., of Sheffield's Park Ironworks, at a cost of £8,750. The total bridge construction cost was £36,000, including approach spans. Initially the bridge was tolled, although the toll was removed in 1868.

The bridge is ornate in the extreme, but it remains elegant due to the basic clarity of the different pieces - the arch ribs, spandrel X-bracing, beams and parapets.

In 1989, the bridge was assessed as unsuitable for heavy modern traffic, and Leeds City Council designed a strengthening and widening scheme, completed in 1995. The basics of the scheme can be seen from below the bridge: the two edge arch ribs on each edge of the bridge have been retained and relocated, and twelve new steel arches have been inserted in between.

The cost of the scheme was approximately £2.2m. The existing foundations were widened and strengthened with the insertion of new mini-piles. The arch ribs on the eastern face were extended in length by replacing one 7.5m segment with new longer cast iron segments: this is visible in some of the photographs, although it's certainly not immediately obvious.

The bridge alterations won a City of Leeds Award for Architecture (1996) and were Commended in the ICE Yorkshire Association Awards (1997). Photographs taken during construction can be found at the Richard's Bridges website link below, the Richard in question being J Richard Kay, former Chief Bridge Engineer for Leeds City Council.






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24 April 2018

Yorkshire Bridges: 23. Knight's Way Footbridge, Leeds

From Leeds Dock, I returned to the River Aire, heading west.


Knight's Way Footbridge was built as part of the Clarence Dock redevelopment in 2007, and is a two span bridge across the River Aire, designed by Buro Happold.

It belongs to a family of crane-like cable-stayed bridges, with other examples in the UK including Lockmeadow Footbridge (1999), Lune Millennium Bridge (2001), Newport City Footbridge (2006), and the Eureka Skyway (2011).

The bridge deck is partially supported by the cables, which carry the forces up to the tip of each pylon, where they are balanced by the compression in the pylon and tension in the overhead cables. The effect is that most of the load on the bridge, including its self-weight, is carried to the foundation on the central island in the river.

The whole bridge will have a tendency to tip over when only one of the two spans is loaded. One way to resist this effect would be to have cables running to ground anchorages at one or both ends of the bridge (the solution adopted for the Newport City Footbridge).

The other, used here, is for the out-of-balance overturning to be resisted by the bearings at the two ends of the bridge, implying that these are probably uplift-resisting bearings. This places a higher bending demand on the deck, losing much of the efficiency that a cable stayed bridge design would normally have.

As with many white-painted bridges, this one is affected by a considerably build-up of grime. Cleaning bridges is rarely a high priority. I have no idea whether this bridge is the responsibility of the city council or the developer, but it often seems to be the case that "landmark" bridges built as part of an exciting new development prove to be a maintenance burden, if their maintenance is remembered at all.

The bridge deck has upstand girders on either side, which I would expect to spoil the appearance of what should be a lightweight, transparent form of structure. The floor plate is about half-way up the girders, and I guess a series of crossbeams are hidden below. The alternative solution, a box girder below floor level, would have given a more slender appearance, but would have been more expensive.

The depth of the girders is not out of proportion to the bridge span (especially given the bending required to prevent overturning of the masts), but seen while standing on the bridge, this arrangement gives the parapets a tacked-on appearance, rather than integrated.


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22 April 2018

Yorkshire Bridges: 22. Leeds Dock Footbridges, Leeds

These two bridges weren't on my "to-do list" in Leeds, but I spotted them from nearby and took the chance to have a quick look while there.

There are two of these little bascule bridges spanning Leeds Dock (formerly Clarence Dock) and one of its side arms, part of a redevelopment completed in 2004. The bridges were designed by Buro Happold, with mechanical engineering by Bennett Associates for contractor Spencer.

Both bridges are stiffened steel u-frame structures. One is a twin-bascule span, with mechnically driven pistons which interlock the two sections at the central joint. The other is a single leaf bascule with a short cantilever approach span - the opening leaf rests on the fixed section via a half-joint.

Both structures are deeper at the hinged end, or, to be more precise, deepest directly above the hydraulic rams that open the spans.

The bridges are not spectacular, but are certainly quite nice.








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21 April 2018

Budapest bridge design competition winner announced

In August 2017, I posted the 17-strong shortlist for a bridge design competition in Budapest, Hungary. The contest was seeking a design for a major new road bridge over the River Danube, to provide a long-planned transport connection on the south side of the city.


The competition winner was announced yesterday, and is a twin-mast cable-stayed bridge designed by UN Studio and Buro Happold. So far, I've not found much detail on the internet (and it's all in Hungarian), but I guess the span is around 250-300m.


The most obvious thing about the bridge (remarked on in several of the Hungarian news features), is its striking resemblance to the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam, also designed by UN Studio (but with different engineers). I guess if plagiarism is the highest form of flattery, plagiarising your own ideas shows who you respect the most.


It's basically two Erasmus bridges joined together, and has a figurative resemblance to two people kneeling down facing each other. The cranked tower legs are connected to massive edge girders in the back-spans.


Other than the doubling up, the other obvious difference to the Erasmus Bridge is that the towers are significantly chunkier in Budapest, which I guess is a consequence of carrying a heavier carriageway (the Danube Bridge contest specified four highway and two tramway lanes).


The Erasmus Bridge design was problematic - expensive to build; and the two edge girders were to a great extent over-sized fascias, sized for visual rather than structural effect. It was also greatly complicated by the details required to transfer axial loads between the main-span and back-span girders, as these are offset from one another. From what can be seen in these images, the same problem exists in the Budapest design.

There are two joint second-prize winners, Lavigne et Chéron Architectes, Bureau d’Etude Greisch, Közkekedés Engineers, Geovil; and Leonhardt Andrä und Partner, Beratende Ingenieure, Zaha Hadid Architects, WERNER Consult, Smoltzcyk and Partner. I've only found an image of the second of those:


This twin-arch design has the kind of gargantuan disregard for context that you would expect from ZHA. I'm struggling to understand why the judges would so highly praise a concept which puts a support pedestal slap-bang in the middle of the river, when this is so easily avoidable. The "hangers" connecting the arch to the deck are also so large that they give the impression they are holding up the arch, rather than suspending the deck.

Three of the entrants were were selected for runners-up prizes:
  • Knight Architects & Ove Arup and Partners
  • Pont-terv Mérnöki Tervező és Tanácsadó Zrt
  • Speciálterv Építőmérnöki Kft
I'm hoping that more of the entries will be made public, as it will be interesting to put the winners in context, and understand what made them the stand-out choices.

19 April 2018

Yorkshire Bridges: 21. Knostrop Footbridge, Leeds


This is the newest of all the structures I saw on my trip to Leeds, having only opened to the public in October 2017. It carries a branch of the Trans Pennine Trail cycle/footpath across the River Aire, and it was installed as part of works for the first phase of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme. The bridge was designed by Knight Architects and Mott MacDonald, and built by contractor BAM Nuttall.

Approaching this along the path from the nearby Thwaite Mills, my first thought is what a real oddity this bridge is. It feels a little like a space-age intruder in a semi-urban wilderness: super-sleek architectural design, the sort of thing that would feel right at a visitor "destination" but feels much more of a surprise on this out-of-the-way pathway. I found it disconcerting, at least to begin with.

The 70m long bridge spans across the new Knostrop weir, a series of three inflatable weir structures intended to be adjustable in times of flood. The weirs (and associated fish passes) are staggered in plan and are separated by slender concrete walls, which also form the supports for the bridge.

There seems to be nothing technical published online about the bridge design, but there are some images of construction at the website of steelwork contractor SH Structures, which provide a little illumination.


The YouTube video above is worth a look first, as the early sequences include some overhead views of the bridge layout.

The bridge crosses the river at what looks like roughly a 45-degree skew, and sits on a series of support legs which run parallel to the river (hence at 45 degrees to the bridge), plus a square abutment at one end. The bridge is straight in plan, but widens out with curved standing areas above each support position.

In cross-section, the bridge is a shallow multi-cellular steel box girder, with a smoothly curved soffit plate. The intersection of the plan geometry with the curved underside leads to a distinctive "scalloped" profile along both edges of the bridge.

The bridge legs are formed from simple steel plates, each only 50mm thick, which must be amongst the most slender footbridge supports anywhere in the UK. It's not quite down to Ney and Partners standards, but it's quite remarkable nonetheless. The legs are attractively shaped as well, holding the bridge delicately to one side of the weir so that bridge users get a good view of the site's main attraction.

The construction photos indicate that the pier legs also form diaphragm plates within the box girders, and that each box span is bolted through the diaphragm. I guess a cover plate was then welded across the finished joints.

Presumably the "leaf" piers are thin enough simply to flex under thermal expansion and contraction, although I think the effects must be complex due to the high skew. They must also be short enough to be safe against buckling against vertical load, so a careful balance of stiffness is required.

The parapets comprise stainless steel ribs with timber leaning rails. I like the simplicity of the main parapet section, but the upper rail, presumably to provide standard cycle parapet height, looks a little like an afterthought.

Nonetheless, this is a very high-quality bridge to find in such an unexpected place.







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17 April 2018

Yorkshire Bridges: 20. Urn Farm Bridge, Leeds


From Lofthouse Interchange, I continued north towards Leeds.

The next bridge I visited was the Urn Farm Bridge, which today carries the footpath Orion Walk across the M621 motorway. It was built as an accommodation bridge as part of the original M1 motorway circa 1967.

This is a three-hinged reinforced concrete arch, spanning 213 feet (65m) between springings and 320 feet (98m) long in total. The upper side spans are supported on half-joints. A photograph of the bridge under construction can be seen at the Motorway Archive online.

It is a moderately familiar form of construction, with other examples including Needle Eye Bridge, also on the M1, and Swanscombe Cutting Bridge. However, I doubt there are more than half-a-dozen in the UK. I always admire their clarity and elegance.

This example has been slightly marred by the addition of anti-climb guards to the legs, but it's still a lovely structure, a fine gateway on the motorway approach to Leeds, or a place for walkers to pause and admire the view.

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16 April 2018

Yorkshire Bridges: 19. Lofthouse Interchange

From Stanley Ferry, I was heading north towards Leeds. My next stop was the Lofthouse Interchange, the magnificent junction between the M1 and M62 motorways, which can be viewed from Long Thorpe Lane on its northern side, for anyone so inclined.


The Lofthouse Interchange may be magnificent, but it's also notorious. Built in 1967, it is a three-level interchange, with the M62 crossing above the M1, and an 800-foot diameter roundabout built above both motorways to accommodate all interchanging traffic. It looks fantastic from above, but it creates a terrible bottleneck, due to the conflict between traffic streams entering the roundabout.

In 1999, major improvements were made by the introduction of new link roads connecting the western arm of the M62 to the northern arm of the M1. However, many conflicting movements remain on the roundabout, and it is known both for congestion and for collisions.

Highways England are consulting on a scheme to improve the junction, although there's no information yet on what this may actually involve. The best long-term solution would be to completely separate all slip road movements, but that is likely to be both hugely expensive and hugely disruptive during construction.


One casualty of any radical change could be the junction's distinctive "banana piers". Judging from the degraded state of the concrete on these, that may not be such a bad thing.

The designers of the Lofthouse Interchange were looking to solve two structural engineering problems, at a time when computer structural analysis was not as ubiquitous as it is today. The first was the concern that mineworkings in the area could lead to settlement of the bridges.


The common solution to this at the time was to introduce as much articulation as possible, so, for example, using a series of simply supported spans rather than continuous beams. The second concern for the engineers was thermal expansion and contraction of the curved bridge decks on the tall support piers.

The issue is not entirely clear: for short simply-supported spans, sliding could be accommodated by bearings on the top of each pier, and the piers designed accordingly. I think the issue here is that the designers wanted the decks to be connected together so that there was only one expansion joint at the end of each bridge: the decks are therefore connected to the pier via fixed bearings (permitting rotation under settlement), all expanding from one abutment.

In any event, the "banana piers" were the solution. The "banana" element is hinged at its base, and supported from a cruciform-section concrete strut hinged top and bottom. The effect of this is that the bridge deck can expand along the direction of its curvature while both deck and pier remain stable. It is a simplistic, statically determinate solution, which today would probably be dealt with by designing the piers to be flexible enough to accommodate thermal movement.

The outcome is one of those highly distinctive structural solutions that the Yorkshire motorways are filled with (see also past posts on Droppingwell Footbridge, Smithy Wood Footbridge, Needle Eye Bridge etc).

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