The cantilevered moving footbridge at Merchant Square in London spans 20 m across the Grand Union Canal and is divided into five slender fingers. These steel beams are raised in sequence using hydraulic jacks with an action similar to a traditional Japanese hand fan. This creates a kinetic sculpture whose silhouette is both legible and extraordinary.
Architects: Knight Architects, High Wycombe
Location: London, United Kingdom
Knight Architects write about their project: The design for the replacement opening footbridge at Paddington Basin spans 20 m across the Grand Union Canal. The brief, set by European Land, called for a piece of architecture that would provide a focal point to an area of waterfront public space that will be opened at least once a week. As well as the axial alignment of the crossing, the other aspect of the brief was the opportunity for the bridge to provide drama in its movement. The modest span suggested that only vertical movement will offer the drama sought in the brief. This arrangement also suited constraints on land ownership, which dictated that the structure be supported primarily from the north end, with only limited support provided on the south bank.
The resulting design concept is a 3 m wide cantilevering deck that is hinged at its north end and is raised using hydraulic jacks with an action similar to that of a Japanese fan. The five steel beams forming the deck open in sequence and shaped counterweights assist the hydraulic mechanism and reduce the energy required to move the structure. The bridge balustrades are formed from twin rows of inclined stainless steel rods, overlapping to form a robust yet filigree and highly transparent structure. The handrail houses a continuous low energy LED downlight, which provides uniform functional illumination of the walking surface and the edge.
The design of the bridge is the result of a complex form-finding process, which optimizes multiple interrelated geometric, structural, mechanical and electrical parameters producing a lean, efficient and cost-effective outcome.