40 Million Dollar Bridge Wows Pedestrians
Adelaide Riverbank Pedestrian Bridge, by Taylor Cullity Lethlean
In the past, bridges were seen simply as connections — pieces of architecture linking two points. However, the Adelaide Riverbank Pedestrian Bridge in Australia is proving that a bridge can also be a destination. Sweeping gracefully from the Dunstan Playhouse and Adelaide Oval across the Torrens River to the city, the bridge is an elegant solution for connecting Adelaide’s arc of waterfront parkland. Completed in March 2014, the $40 million bridge takes the first step toward bringing life back to the unique and picturesque riverbank precinct.
Aurecon was the lead consultant and responsible for the design and management of this public infrastructure, but also worked with landscape architects Taylor Cullity Lethlean (TCL) and Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects (TZG) to win the South Australian Government Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure’s competition in 2012.
Bridge Garnering Worldwide Attention
The bridge is the first part of the Riverbank Masterplan to be implemented, and is already garnering worldwide attention. The eight-meter-wide bridge spans 255 meters across the River Torrens and, at nearly 75 meters high, offers stunning views of the Adelaide Parklands. Pedestrians can now use the bridge to access the Festival Centre, Adelaide Railway Station, and the new Convention Centre.
The bridge was designed with maximum lightness and simplicity, with a faceted profile, clad in white glass, that reflects the water during the day. Programmable LED lighting illuminates the bridge and water at night. The bridge is surrounded by greenery, and is supported on dramatically angled V-shaped columns.
According to Peter Tonkin, director of TZG: “The notion of touching the ground lightly drove the design team to consider a method that would allow the bridge to be supported by a seemingly minimal structure. It was important to the team that a single pier within the Torrens could suspend the bridge, emphasizing the lightness.”
A Purity of Form
The arc of the bridge serves to mirror the River Torrens and connect the destinations in such a way as to provide pedestrians with an experience, not just a pathway. “The beauty of the bridge arc lies in its purity of form, and the way the bridge glides past the north bank to cantilever out over the water, culminating in a stunning water feature,” said TCL associate Lisa Howard.
The design team integrated the bridge into the more “park type” setting of the northern riverbank and provided a new meeting place at the more “urban” setting on the Southern riverbank by adding a new, redeveloped Adelaide festival bistro, grand stairs, and water feature, which falls from the termination of the bridge to create a dramatic Belvedere, or vantage point.
This water wall magically falls from the end of the bridge and allows pedestrians the unique viewpoint of standing above as the water crashes into the river below, aerating and cleansing the river. It is accompanied by a generous stepped outdoor space where visitors can view the cascades from below while standing amidst significant plantings.
A Theatre Venue for ‘Plug and Play’ Events
Aurecon technical director Niko Tsoukalas’ description of the project gives an excellent visual of what awaits visitors to the bridge: “This is a very challenging and unique project as it is not just a bridge. The design delivers a curvilinear, sleek, elegant, and slender form that is clad in a ‘snake skin’ patterned glass whilst at the same time the design allows for this piece of public infrastructure to be utilized as a theatre stage, by providing along its length locations that can have ‘plug and play’ mini events set up.”
A Manifestation of Local History and Culture
Finally, to ensure that the bridge fit into the cultural landscape, the design team went a step further and worked with cultural consultant Karl Telfer from Cultural Research Education and Design (CRED) to incorporate local history into the project. This collaboration resulted in the placement of a stainless steel work of art covered with discreet etchings of indigenous animals that can be seen by day and transforms into the southern constellations by night on the south landing.
This was all part of the design team’s vision to create not only the bridge, but also a series of new “people spaces” on the waterfront, each with its own unique character and amenity.
The completion of the Adelaide Riverbank Pedestrian Bridge not only invites opportunities for revitalizing the parts of the city that connect to this precinct, but is also allowing people to discover that the journey is just as important as the destination. Or, as in this case, the journey is the destination.
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Article written by Erin Tharp
Erin is a registered landscape architect and has a Masters of Landscape Architecture from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is working for her own firm, Tharp Design.
Latest posts by Erin Tharp, Writer of the Year 2015-16 (see all)
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