River Soar bridge by Explorations Architecture and Buro Happold

Here's another bridge by Paris practice Explorations Architecture with UK engineers Buro Happold, who collaborated to design the Metro West bridge in our previous story.


This design was the winning project in a competition, organised by the RIBA, to design a foot and cycle bridge over the river Soar at Abbey Meadows in Leicester, UK.


As with the Metro West design, the supports of the suspension bridge sink beneath the deck towards its centre, affording clear lines of sight up and down the river.


Laminated glass parapets interrupt these views as little as possible.


The bridge is due for construction in 2010.


Here's some more information from Explorations Architecture:



An iconic yet subtle bridge
The proposed design is an innovative self-anchored suspension bridge. With its gently curved deck, filigree structure and shallow cable profile, the bridge is an iconic yet subtle structure flying delicately over the River Soar. The bridge carries memories of late Victorian engineering with its sharp and sober structural expressivity. It is also a very contemporary structure, through its environmental understanding and the use of cutting edge bridge technology. The new bridge will form a strong symbol for the Abbey Meadows development and create a link between history and urban regeneration.


A gentle inclusion in the landscape
The structure is designed to minimise any visual obstruction across the river perspective. The river corridor is a protected area with mature trees and dense river bushes creating a natural environment right in the middle of the city. A simple beam bridge or an egotistical statement that rises far above the river would detract from this beautiful and simple landscape. In addition to this, the Abbey Meadows townscape is defined by several landmark structures such as the National Space Centre and the Victorian Water tower. The new bridge should not compete with these but enhance the natural setting with a filigree horizontal profile. The low rise design approach allows the deck to smoothly emerge from the existing vegetation and integrate gently into the landscape.


A cinematic structure
The bridge shape is defined by two geometries: an arch shaped deck and a catenary cable profile. The steel “exoskeleton” links the two curves to create a dynamic virtual volume. This approach calls to mind the photographs of Edward Muybridge and Étienne-Jules Marey. These famous 19th century “motion pictures” redefined our perception of the natural world. Pedestrians observing the bridge from the new Wolsey square will enjoy a cinematic yet fixed structure. Its sharp attraction will contrast harmoniously with the solid masonry of the Water tower and the bubble shape of the Space Centre. Views from bridge are unobstructed so that the deck itself becomes a belvedere onto nature.


A belvedere onto nature
Pedestrians and cyclists emerge from the woodland, pass through the abutment gateway and reach the centre of the river corridor. They are greeted with clear lines of sight, both upstream and downstream as the main structural elements dive below to provide support to the deck. Children and grown ups alike are able to admire the outstanding natural surrounding thanks to the transparent parapets formed of laminated glass. Materials have to be carefully selected to establish a contemporary, sober and elegant palette that will blend naturally in the landscape.


A delicate approach to colours and finishes
The bridge will be in a gentle colour between off white and a very light grey. Each material will be specified to very high expectations both aesthetically and structurally. Precast white concrete will be used for its high quality finish and its visual continuity from abutments to deck. Painted steel sections will be used for their strength and slenderness to support the deck off the main cables. Low iron Laminated Glass will be used for its high transparency and neutral colour.


Leicester Regeneration Company and Leicester City Council

Competition organizer
Royal Institute of British Architects

Explorations architecture, Paris
Design team: Benoît le Thierry d’Ennequin, Yves Pagès, Sylvia Bauer


Buro Happold, London
Design team: Adam Allegri, David Knight, Winfried Meijer, Davood Liaghat, Simon Fryer, Matthew Crouchman, Anthony Holder


Competition Jan-Feb 2009
Construction is anticipated in 2010

£ 1.5 m

Abbey Meadows, Leicester

Length: 60 m
Clear span: 52 m
Width: 4 m


More Dezeen stories about Explorations Architecture:



Metro West bridge


Versailles pavilion