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Castleford Bridge, Castleford, United Kingdom

Wednesday 09 Jul 2008

“S” shaped Bridge opens in Yorkshire

Chris Henderson : Copyright English Partnership 
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Safe passage for community as ribbon is cut on high-profile bridge 

The residents of Castleford in Yorkshire are the proud owners of a stylish new 130 metre long pedestrian bridge connecting the north and south parts of town at Aire and Mill Lane, creating a safer and more pleasant promenade for pedestrians. The bridge will serve as an alternative to the 200 year-old Victorian road bridge further downstream.

During the past 5 years the former mining town has been the centre of an urban regeneration experiment lead by Wakefield Council, Channel 4, regional and national regeneration and funding agencies, plus a passionate local community. Leading architects, designers and regeneration experts amongst whom McDowell+Benedetti, Martha Schwartz, Hudson Architects and DSDHA have collaborated with local people and agencies to improve the quality of life of the town and to make Castleford a distinctive place. Projects have included the footbridge, a play forest, green spaces, a new market and the town square. The whole process has been scrupulously witnessed and documented by Channel 4 and it will be broadcasted this August as part of a series presented by 'Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud: it will become one of the world's first televised regeneration schemes.

Designed by McDowell+Bendetti with Alan Baxter Associates and Arup and constructed by Costain, Castleford Bridge is the most ambitious of the eleven interventions in Castleford and has already been short listed for the prestigious Prime Minister's Award for Better Public Buildings as part of the British Construction Industry Awards scheme.

The pedestrian bridge curves in response to the site context of the mill, the weir and old wrecked barge, giving users maximum experience of these landmarks. The streamlined timber deck bridge is designed as a public space as well as a route, with the structure rising through the deck to create four 20 metre curving benches to sit and enjoy the panoramic views.

Terry Hodgkinson, Chair of Yorkshire Forward gladly remarked: "Promenades are more usually associated with Victorian times in our seaside towns rather than Castleford. But McDowell+Benedetti has designed not only a river crossing, but a place to wander, to meet and greet and to reflect on the town's past and to vision it's future on a piece of creative modern art that is fit for a 21st Century Castleford.”

Materials include untreated Cumaru timber for the bridge decking and handrail, stainless steel for the balustrades, tension cables, bench panels and a central grille in the timber deck to mark the midpoint of contra-flexure. Cumaru having two and half times the density of oak was chosen for its durability and was sourced from sustainable forests in Brazil.

The decking area is 524m2 and if laid end to end the boards would stretch a distance of 8km. The boards run longitudinally along the bridge and over the benches (with anti-slip strips on the edge) and are fitted together by a unique concealed clamped-fixing system, tailor made for the project. This system avoids invasive drilling and minimises disruption to the bridge’s slender deck and streamlined form. It presents the maximum timber surface to walk on, while allowing the wood to expand, contract and weather naturally.

Lighting is embedded under the Cumaru handrails, which run the 130m length of the bridge. Balustrade posts are curved to reduce climb-ability and a series of stainless steel marker plates which sit flush with the deck and rise up from the benches, create arm rests to define personal space and to dissuade skateboarders from edge ‘grinding’.

The bridge is the first phase of McDowell+Bendetti’s proposed waterfront regeneration master plan, which includes a new public square and boardwalk on the south bank, a landscaped public space on the north bank, and a cohesive lighting strategy surrounding the bay called the “string of pearls”.

Laura Salmi

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