Tell us about the early design brief
Our brief for the bridges was to maximise the investment in permanent structures for the legacy, develop the structures and bridges as a part of the river valley landscape of the Park, and satisfy the Olympic Development Authority’s priority themes of sustainability, accessibility, high quality and safety.
What inspired your design concept?
A fundamental idea about geometry is embedded in every aspect of the bridges and structures. The geometry is evident and recognisable from afar and close-up in the details. The main bridges do not make a statement in their own right but are integrated into the landscape so that they emerge from it.
The bridges and structures of the Olympic Park formed the backbone of an infrastructure network for both the Games and the legacy phases of the project. We invested in the permanent structures, while temporary structures were designed in an economic and sustainable way that allowed them to be easily removed and re-used.
A large number of pedestrian bridge crossings over water were required within the Park to connect the venues, with widths for the Games of up to 40m. The design of the 13 permanent bridges formed a coherent family with common geometries, details and components. The temporary bridges up to 24m in width were designed as an overlay element and were removed after the Games, revealing pre-formed river valley landscaped terraces.
The core family of permanent bridge structures are embedded within the landscape and are deliberately understated. This strategy allows other bridges, particularly those at the Park’s perimeter, to adopt individual forms responding to their specific locations.
What challenges did you face along the way?
The site posed a number of challenges, the most considerable one being that of creating a single park in a physically fragmented area crossed by four separate waterways and constrained by major road and rail infrastructure. The park also had to be connected to its surrounding areas – this was no mean feat and required significant infrastructure.
With the legacy of the project always in mind, it was also a challenge to design elements only once, which would be suitable for the very particular requirements of the Games and Paralympics, but also for the public after the Games. This informed the strategy for the sizes of the bridges for example – many of the bridges feature a permanent element coupled with a temporary element. Investment and funding had to be focused in the permanent elements, such as the bridges and also the roads. For example, the loop-road used by LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games), athletes and officials during the Games and Paralympics was designed so that 75% of it could be reused and form part of the local road network after the Games.
We always kept the core design concepts sacrosanct and referred back to the fundamental principles through a lengthy period of development. Our design thinking had to result in practical, buildable and repeatable details which could be implemented by numerous different contractors across the site.
How did it feel to be involved in such a large and important British project?
We are very proud to have been involved in this once-in-a-lifetime project – the London 2012 Olympic Games was significant, but to create a platform for the Games which kick-starts and will continue to have a lasting effect on the regeneration of this part of London is the real achievement.