We were invited in August 1994 to compete for this design, collaborating with Ove Arup and Partners & the artist Wendy Taylor.
The LDDC proposed a series of pedestrian bridges link South Quay to Heron Quays to Canary Wharf and eventually to North Quay.
Initially the bridge between South Quay and Heron Quays is located close to the existing Docklands Light Railway bridge. In the future, once development of Heron Quays has taken place, it may be moved further east, where the crossing would be significantly shorter. Our view was that a bridge expressingd structural gymnastics was inappropriate seen against the existing structures. We therefore proposed a ‘landscaped approach’ which would reinforce an emerging north-south pedestrian route from Blackheath through to Hackney.
The optimum design solution for bridges is usually set by context and here the context is not about taming wild water or traversing a deep gorge. Instead, the water is flat and peaceful, disturbed occasionally by human interventions – fishing and boating. This perception led to our concept, of the aits (small islands) – an interpretation of stepping stones. It offered an environmentally sensitive and adaptable solution.
It is a series of islands connected by short span bridges which enable the pedestrian to walk level with the docksides and be near to the water, there being no justification for moving people to a higher level. Each ait and each link bridge has an identical structure but they would be characterised by their individual landscape. The aits are concrete structures with appropriate depth for buoyancy giving a freeboard of 1m. The hollow steel beams and timber decked bridges are rigidly connected to the aits and are sufficiently robust to absorb the various forces acting on them.
An 11m clear passage for small craft is provided between two of the aits by means of a short lifting bridge.
There is little redundancy, for in the future the aits could be ‘untethered’ and relocated at little cost – 4 being required at the new shorter crossing. The four spare aits could provide another North Quay to Canary Wharf bridge, or alternatively be attached to a bridge as recreation islands.