Dezeen Magazine

Thomas Randall-Page completes Cody Dock Rolling Bridge in London

British designer Thomas Randall-Page has installed a footbridge in east London that is made from weathering steel and oak and rotates via manual levers to let boats pass.

Called Cody Dock Rolling Bridge, it is part of a masterplan by London studio PUP Architects that is reviving the former Victorian dock on the River Lea for use by pedestrians.

Rolling bridge in operation
Thomas Randall-Page has completed a rolling bridge in London

Developed over seven years, the bridge has a square profile and crosses a small channel in the recently reflooded dock area. According to Randall-Page, it is the "first of its kind", in that it rotates on its axis via a series of manual levers.

The bridge takes inspiration from the simple mechanisms of Victorian industrial design. Its edges are wrapped in steel gear teeth that rest in a track embedded into the side of the channel.

Rolling footbridge in walking mode
Its appearance references the Victorian history of the dock

"Early industrial infrastructure inspired me to design a balanced system, like a canal lock or a draw bridge," Randall-Page told Dezeen.

"These systems are counterweighted or use gravity to their advantage rather than external power sources," he continued.

"Utilising weathering steel and steam-bent oak in their raw untreated state, the aesthetic is more influenced by the area's maritime and shipbuilding past, traces of which are dotted throughout the area."

Rolling bridge in London with steel siding
It is operated by a series of hand cranks

A series of cables are wrapped around the edges of the Cody Dock Rolling Bridge and attached to winches at either side, allowing it to be moved 180 degrees. For Randall-Page, it was important that the bridge can be manually controlled for a few reasons.

These include ensuring the bridge requires no power to run, and that it can be easily repaired. The latter aspect will also allow operators to identify any problems with the bridge without relying on "complex sensors or cut-offs".

Detail shot of walkway at Cody Dock
The bridge can rotate 180 degrees to allow boats to pass underneath

"This concept was developed specifically in relation to this project and its particular context," explained Randall-Page.

"However, it is part of an ongoing fascination I have with movement and transformation, and the playfulness this can bring to projects."

In order to balance the bridge as it rolls, scrap steel and concrete ballast are hidden inside the "hoops" that frame the bridge. It weighs 13 tonnes and the centre of gravity moves horizontally as it is operated.

Cody Dock Rolling Bridge currently crosses over a channel that is a dead end, but as the whole of the dock is reflooded, Randall-Page said that he expects his design to be put to functional use.

"The dock will be used for permanent moorings and eventually will also host a large dry dock for repairs and maintenance of barges," he said.

"If it had to open every day, we would have employed a system which would make it faster to open and close but as it's once a week this slow motion seems fine, even quite enjoyable."

Guide rail for rotating bridge
It uses a simple mechanical system without electronics

The dock was originally completed in 1871 by Imperial Chemical Company, and in 2009, a charity called Gasworks Dock Partnership was created to regenerate the site. Alongside the Cody Dock Rolling Bridge, it is now home to a number of galleries, cafes and other amenities.

Other uniquely designed footbridges include Sam Crawford Architects' eel-shaped bridge in Sydney as well as a bridge in the Netherlands created in part from flax.

The photography and video are by Jim Stephenson.

Project credits: 

Design: Thomas Randall-Page
Structural engineering: Price & Myers
Mechanical engineering: Eadon Consulting
Fabrication: Cake Industries
Oak bending: Charlie Whinney Studio

More images

Cody Dock Rotating Bridge
Cody Dock Rotating Bridge
Cody Dock Rotating Bridge
Cody Dock Rotating Bridge
Cody Dock Rotating Bridge