Open crossing

Tuesday 13 Oct 2009

Cox Rayner + Arup complete worlds largest tensegrity bridge in Brisbane

Kurilpa Bridge, the world’s largest tensegrity bridge, was officially opened to the public this week.Designed by the Queensland division of Australia’s Cox Rayner Architects with Arup, the £35.5 million pedestrian and cycle bridge connects Brisbane’s Central Business District with the city’s South Bank and its major cultural precinct. This is the second project the two practices have collaborated on in the last decade following the completion of the Goodwill Bridge in 2000. Both bridges are part of a comprehensive process by the Queensland Government to interconnect two of the city’s major precincts.

The Kurilpa Bridge utilises renowned architect, Richard Buckminster Fuller’s principle of tensegrity producing a synergy between balanced tension and compression components to create a light structure that is incredibly strong.

Asked what the primary reason for exploring the tensegrity potential was, lead architect Michael Rayner explained: “The inherent strength in the tensegrity system meant that the deck could be very thin. As river navigation requirements entailed the bridge needed to be 11 metres above the bank on the South Bank side, the 900mm deck enabled us to minimize the ramp down which otherwise would have eaten into Kurilpa Park, a significant historic meeting place for Aboriginal people”.

Measuring 470 metres long and 6.5 metres wide, the Kurilpa Bridge has several viewing decks and a full length canopy, both of which are supported by a secondary tensegrity structure.

Speaking in the Queensland Parliament, the Premier Anna Bligh said:“With 1500 people moving into South-East Queensland every week, the demand for improved pedestrian and cycle pathways is growing. I am happy that we can meet this practical demand in such an eye pleasing way. The design is a world-first and an exciting new landmark for our State.”

Rayner said neither Cox Rayner nor Arup, lead by its engineer Tristram Carfrae, had any particular metaphor in mind when designing the bridge, but sought to demonstrate a completely new way to span a river that Brisbane could embrace as its own. He remarked:“If anything, we thought more abstractly of dance or contemporary symphony – seeing the bridge as a convergence of art and structure leading people towards the city’s art galleries”.

At night, the bridge will be lit with a sophisticated LED lighting scheme which can be programmed to produce an array of different lighting effects. In most lighting configurations, 100 per cent of the power will be provided by solar energy with any surplus power returned to the main grid. This will amount to savings of around 37.8 tonnes of carbon emissions each year.

Cox Rayner – Arup have also collaborated on the ‘Helix Bridge’ in Singapore, which is scheduled to complete in March 2010.

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