European Land

Merchant Square, Paddington, London

Architect: Knight Architects
Structural Engineer: AKT II
M&E Engineer: Eadon Consulting
Principal Contractor: Mace

Merchant Square Lifting Bridge

In recent years the number of footbridges we have has increased significantly with a wide variety of types and locations however Knight Architects’ stunning fan like lifting bridge in London is unique. Based upon a master plan by Robin Partington Architects, the Merchant Square waterside regeneration project is a high profile residential and business development in the heart of London. Already the home of the Thomas Heatherwick designed rolling bridge the construction of the new lifting bridge continuous the tradition of innovative engineering first started by Brunels’ nearby Paddington Station.

The new bridge which spans 20m across the Grand Union canal at first appears simple yet elegant with it striking stainless steel balustrades and blade like counterweights however when it is operated the opening structure provides onlookers with a piece of theatre which is a blend of architectural flare and engineering excellence. The bridge deck slowly lifts as it is split into five distinct fingers which gradually move in sequence to give the bridge its distinct fan like appearance. SH Structures were responsible for the supply, manufacture, operational M&E equipment and installation of the new footbridge a project which had its own special challenges. The nature of the structure meant that the fabrication tolerances were going to be very tight to ensure that each finger would lower into place every time it was operated with a perfect parallel gap between each finger of less than 5mm. creating a perfect even walking surface.

The project required a great deal of collaborative work with the clients’ professional team a process we always enjoy. With the design fully developed and the various components fabricated we were faced with the challenge of installing the structure without the use of a conventional crane and access for delivery vehicles. Our solution was to load the individual elements onto a barge further up the canal network and deliver it using the existing waterway. We also hired the services of a barge mounted crane to assist with the lifting operations. The testing and commissioning process enabled us to fine tune everything and ensure the fit and finish was perfect before handing the bridge over to our client. The bridge is now opened several times a week to allow people to enjoy this new addition to London’s bridge stock. Widely praised by visitors the bridge secured a Steel Design Award in 2015. Soon to be featured in the new Bourne Identity movie in 2016 we would be interested to hear Matt Damon’s view of this fantastic new bridge.