More than 200 years ago, this canal in London was a critical vein in the city’s industrial infrastructure, carting goods between Birmingham and London. The bridge that spans it today would have seemed utterly bizarre — but a lot has changed since 1801.
Like so many other post-industrial port cities, London has plenty of waterfront real estate in need of revitalisation, and the area around the once-booming Paddington Canal was no exception. Beginning in the early 2000s, the post-industrial neighbourhood became part of one of the largest development schemes London had ever seen — including new office buildings, residential blocks, and plenty of public spaces.
And since the canal itself remained — as well as the odd boat or two — there would need to be pedestrian bridges. First came one that Knight Architects and AKT II, both based in London. Here’s how it works: The 20m long bridge is divided lengthwise into five distinct steel beams. Each beam is cantilevered out over the canal with a massive counterweight hidden in the ground at one side — these are controlled by a subterranean hydraulic jack.
When the bridge is down, the beams lock together to create a perfect 3m wide path across the canal, handrails and everything. When they’re raised, they create a twisted steel form, capped off by five steel-edged counterweights that rise out of the ground at one edge. The architects describe it as a “kinetic sculpture”.
For the ubiquity of the mechanism used to operate it, it’s got an ingenious amount of bang for the buck. With a few pieces of expertly crafted steel, some counterweights and a hydraulic jack, these designers built a bridge unlike any other in the world.
Pictures: Knight Architects