Knight Architects has completed St Philips Footbridge across the River Avon in Bristol; a new pedestrian and cycle bridge providing improved connectivity to Temple Island behind Temple Meads railway station, which will be developed into a new townscape in the coming years.
The footbridge, designed by Knight Architects and Jacobs (formerly CH2M) on behalf of Bristol City Council, provides a high-quality piece of infrastructure as an additional pedestrian/cycle connection to the Temple Island site. In doing so, it offers an innovative solution to a complex crossing problem: the connection of two banks of the River Avon with a significant difference in height, appearance and architectural quality.
The 50m-span bridge is a steel beam structure with a forked plan, providing an accessible ramp and a staircase to maximise functionality. The bridge ends have very different characteristics – a tall, historic stone wall on the west and a low, natural green slope on the east – which have resulted in the unusual and striking design. The sculpted shape and horizontal underside of the bridge masks the constant gradient of the walking surface, thereby avoiding the intrusive ramp appearance which a bridge with these challenging constraints might normally have.
At the Temple Island end, there is sufficient space to naturally combine pedestrian and cycle flows with the structure sitting well above the water level. At the east bank, the area is much more restricted, and the structure can be affected by floods. The structure divides before reaching the bank, the structural depth is minimised (having simply supported ends) and a U‐shaped cross section is used. The forked geometry naturally guides people along the desired lines and provides options for potential future connections.
As a result of the holistic architectural, functional and structural approach, the compact design appears simple and elegant. The form is clearly legible for users and viewers, including within the context of the two existing bridges in the vicinity, and the solid (but slender) geometry makes it a quiet addition to an eclectic townscape, bringing visual order to the composition.
Héctor Beade-Pereda, Associate Bridge Designer at Knight Architects, said: “This has been a complex and challenging project because of the very nature of its situation, however we are delighted that a beautiful and understated piece of design has emerged as a central piece of infrastructure to link two areas of Bristol. The team has enjoyed working through its evolution and we look forward to seeing the new footbridge settle into its surroundings over the coming years.”