HOUCHELL Studio is a young, London-based architectural practice whose projects are based on a clear understanding of the value of the architect – both academically and in practice – in determining the design process itself.
Rather than regarding the product of its work as a structure or object, the studio places great emphasis on the process which drives and derives solutions – whether conceptual, strategic or material – as a product in its own right. HOUCHELL Studio evaluates issues of sustainability from the micro (materials and assembly of components) to the macro (urban and infrastructural planning), and considers such issues and their communication to clients as a fundamental component of the design process.
The studio’s first commission was to provide a detailed technical brief through numerous consultations and analyses of existing site and planning data and, on its basis, develop a concept design for a pedestrian and cycle bridge across the River Trent at Gainsborough, Lincolnshire in the UK. The structure spans 106 m across the river, and is rotationally symmetrical in plan, the deck supported on its inner edge either side of the mid-span by cable stays from a pair of sharply-raked masts, one on each embankment clear of the river channel.
The proposal is the result of an extensive design process which sought to address the many complex site constraints and provide a solution to the requirements for a functional, economic and highly visible structure between town and open marshland across the river. The unusually low cable-stayed form is made possible by treating each half of the curved deck and its rotationally symmetrical counterpart as a partial ring girder: global torsion in the deck is minimal permitting a simple, uniform cross section, vital since the soffit is as visible as the deck itself.
The deck components are separated into a top and bottom chord interconnected by expressed steel diaphragms, yielding a very slim apparent deck depth of only 330 mm. The masts are sharply inclined to the vertical to optimise the ring girder principle and balance the vertical and torsional loads on the deck. There is no need to support the deck directly from the masts, accentuating the visual lightness of the structure.
The River Trent is a commercial waterway, and as such the construction sequence is critical to the project’s viability. The span is rationalised into three identical components either side of the mid-span, all of which may be brought to site by river barge. The river need only be closed for a few hours when the final two sections of deck across the middle of the river are lifted and fixed into place. Funding for the project is now being sought.