30 March 2009
Is there bridge news you think I should be covering? If so, post in the comments here.
Meanwhile, here's a quick news roundup to keep things ticking over ...
Naeem Hussain interviewed on Third Forth Crossing
Great to see a bridge engineer the focus of attention
Civic Trust Award for Castleford Footbridge
Partnership award for S-shaped structure
Supplied Clyde Arc hanger forks met specification
Hakes bridge design takes it to Moscow
Pontist notes cat's cradle design to be inefficient but couldn't summon energy to comment further
20 March 2009
Organised by RIBA on behalf of the regeneration company, Sunderland Arc, the competition sought a design for a highway bridge across the River Wear, with the organisers being quite explicit that they were looking for something iconic. The winning design (pictured right), by Techniker and Spence Associates, is currently undergoing further technical development before Sunderland City Council decide whether or not they can afford it.
I've been keen for some time to publish the other entries, the five designs that weren't chosen. H0w is the winner to be properly judged if not against its peers? Sadly, Sunderland have refused to release images of the other entries, and my enquiries with the designers have, with the two exceptions shown below, drawn a blank.
Three losing entries came from Halcrow, Flint and Neill, and Dissing + Weitling; Hyder and Yee Associates; and Jacobs Babtie, Leonhardt Andrae und Partner, and Marks Barfield. I would love to show you these, so if any of the designers would like to send through their images, please email happypontist at googlemail dot com.
The other two losing entries are shown below courtesy of Schlaich Bergermann, and Wilkinson Eyre. How do they compare against the winner?
In many ways, all the designs share a desire to adopt an unnecessary and inefficient structural form purely to shout "look at me". That's not unreasonable - I think it's a large part of what Sunderland were looking for.
The Gifford / Wilkinson Eyre design is far more economic than the winning entry, with a cable layout that doesn't impose too many unnecessary forces on the support tower, particularly in the way the cables are arranged in plane with the axis of the V-shaped pylon arms (minimising bending moments).
That V-shaped pylon itself, of course, runs the risk of being seen in Sunderland as a two-fingered salute to local rivals such as Newcastle - see, our bridge is bigger, better. I can't help thinking the basic geometric idea (the X-shaped pylon and cable arrangement) doesn't quite make sense here, but could be developed into something interesting on a different site.
The images of the Schlaich Bergermann entry are a real curiosity, as much for the insight into their creative process as for the unlikely solution itself, a combination asymmetric cable-stayed suspension bridge, from which giant glass scales are suspended. Gehry doesn't strike me as an architect with much sympathy for the normal imperatives of bridge design - his work is about shape and surface rather than structure, and his non-linear, protean forms are at odds with the linear, refined forms normally suited to bridges. Jörg Schlaich, on the other hand, is a giant of engineering notable for pushing the boundaries of structural innovation without normally departing from the primacy of his structural ideas.
The Gehry / Schlaich design for River Wear seems to have its origins in Schlaich's 1989 Neckarstrasse footbridge, albeit at a larger scale and with the reverse suspension cable (the one that curves out of the tower like a letter D) much improved in shape. The only similar design I can recall seeing is Robert Benaim and Powell Williams's design for the Royal Victoria Dock bridge. Like that bridge, my first thought is about the difficulty of cable replacement once in operation.
Gehry's glass scales simply aren't my cup of tea, they seem like an afterthought, and I can easily imagine the judging panel worrying about both how they'd be restrained, maintained, and protected against damage. I do, however, admire the way that Gehry brought something so unpredictable to the design.
So, if you had to choose between these three designs, which would you choose, sat in Sunderland's shoes?
As with all these posts, click on an image for a full-size version.
Gifford / Wilkinson Eyre
Schlaich Bergermann / Atkins / Gehry Partners
18 March 2009
The design, by Halcrow and Dissing + Weitling, won a design-and-build competition in the aftermath of the failed "glasgowbridge" competition. It was far less ambitious than the entries to the original competition, representing a much more sober, risk-averse approach to the crossing.
16 March 2009
Rosales and SBP make start 6 months after appointment
Portland Tri-Met bridge bones picked over
Rosales and SBP subject to lengthy analysis, SBP designer enters debate (in comments to linked blog post)
One of our bridges is leaking
Listed Grade I Devils Bridge in Kirkby Lonsdale struggling to raise funds
Calatrava Bridge in Dallas hits snags
Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge (pictured left) finds sand may affect flood defences
Decision on River Wear crossing still uncertain
But approach roads to start design in September
12 March 2009
Your extension is completed, and you enjoy it very much. Until, that is, you find in the post one day, a writ from the designer of the original house. She claims that your extension is a mutilation of her original design, and asks the court for damages to restore her reputation. You are, I would guess, flabbergasted. It's your house, after all. Who is she to say you can't alter it as you wish?
Far fetched? Just plain weird? In Britain, it would be impossible, but that isn't the case everywhere.
For the last two years, Santiago Calatrava has been fighting just such a case against the authorities in Bilbao. The case relates to Calatrava's Zubizuri ("white bridge" in Basque), perhaps better known as his Campo Volantin Footbridge. And the news, just in, is that he has won. He's the designer, and no, it can't be altered without his consent.
Opened in 1997, the arch footbridge (pictured left), spanning 75m across the Nervion River, is one of Calatrava's most iconic works. It has had its problems - the footway is inset with glass bricks which can be slippery with wet, and the local council has reportedly spent 250,000 euros replacing them when they break, as well as dealing with claims from injured bridge users.
In 2006, a new and substantially less attractive footbridge link was added at one end of the Zubizuri, in order to provide a better connection to the new Isozaki towers. The new link bridge can be seen here and here (and below). While it's undoubtedly totally out of keeping with Calatrava's design, it does serve the rather useful purpose of providing a direct high-level connection where there was previously none.
In 2007, Calatrava sued the authorities for breaching his moral rights to the integrity of his artistic work, arguing that this alteration represented derogatory treatment of "his" bridge. He complained both about the attachment of the new bridge, and about the removal of a short section of balustrade. He sought either for the new link bridge to be removed (and to receive 250,000 euros in moral damages), or if it were to remain in place, to receive 3 million euros in damages, a sum that must have several other bridge designers wondering how they can tap this unlikely new source of income.
Bilbao argued that there was a common public interest in extending and modifying the bridge, and that this superseded Calatrava's rights.
In November 2007, the courts decided that although the designer's moral rights had indeed been breached, no damages were due. Calatrava appealed.
Now, Calatrava's appeal has been upheld, and while Bilbao will be allowed to keep their footbridge extension (pictured left, courtesy of Daquella Manera on flickr, as is the image below), they have to pay Calatrava damages. That link suggests 300,000 euros are to be paid, but in fact it's only 30,000 (Spanish readers can find the full court decision online). What's clear is that while the Spanish courts have very firmly upheld Calatrava's right not to have his bridges tampered with, they've also very firmly rejected his estimation of the extent of damage caused. Nonetheless, building owners throughout Spain will probably be reeling from the judgement, which opens the way for any architect to seek damages any time their work is altered.
So, what are these "moral rights"? They relate to the ability of an artist to control the fate of their works. Essentially, they prevent owners of a work of art from altering it, which I guess is a useful protection to have.
In the USA, moral rights are primarily available for visual art - certainly not for buildings.
In the UK, moral rights are enshrined in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988, which includes buildings as "artistic works". Artistic works are protected against addition, deletion, alteration or adaptation, where this distorts or mutilates the work, or harms the creator's reputation in any way. Luckily for building owners in the UK, however, the Act specifically excludes buildings from protection against derogatory treatment (clause 80(5), for those who care), so it appears that the Calatrava case couldn't happen here.
In reality it's not quite that simple. A detailed account of the Calatrava case at WIPO magazine suggests that the Spanish intellectual property law doesn't clearly offer any protection to works of architecture, implying that the courts are setting an important precedent by expanding its interpretation. All national legislation in this area has its source in the Berne Convention, which does explicitly include works of architecture, and explicitly provides protection against distortion, mutilation or other derogatory treatment.
So it's far from unreasonable to conclude that this may not be the last time a bridge designer sues to protect the artistic integrity of their work. Bridge owners everywhere, beware! And homeowners, especially in Spain, think twice before having that extension built ...
07 March 2009
The cable-stay option, which is undoubtedly the most efficient design for a light rail bridge spanning 200-250m, never seems to have been given the attention it deserves - the visualisations, with their classic A-frame design, do nothing to show how flexible this form is aesthetically, how many ways there are to make it attractive without having to go to the expense of Rosales' "wave-frame" solution. I don't get the feeling we're anywhere near seeing the final design yet ...
03 March 2009
Knight Architects and Knippers Helbig win bridge design competition, pictured right (more)
New journal offers historical perspective on bridges
ICE's "Engineering History and Heritage" includes articles on Thomas Telford and the lessons learnt from bridge failure in the UK: free sample issue available online
Trunk routes proposed to save elephant lives
Jumbo size flyovers required in India (spotted thanks to Bridgeworld.net)