From snide to pride

Monday 20 Jan 2014

WAN AWARDS win helps change perception of new bridge by McDowell+Benedetti

Once written off as a waste of public money, sneered at for being behind schedule, and unkindly dubbed ‘the bridge to nowhere’ by many locals, now, in the northeast of England, Hull’s new £7m Scale Lane Bridge is being hailed as a triumph. This is thanks, at least in some part, to the now completed bridge winning the prestigious WAN Transport Award 2013 in the completed category this past December.

Now open to the public, the new 1,000-tonne pedestrian and cycle Scale Lane Bridge spans 57m. Its distinctive ‘whale’ form makes it an instant landmark, unique to Hull and its rich maritime heritage. The innovative pivoting design allows members of the public to remain on the bridge while it opens and closes for river traffic - believed to be a world first and making it a destination in its own right.

In an interview with WAN AWARDS judge Anthony Leslie (HOK) on BBC Radio Humberside last week, presenter David Burn admitted that the local radio station had criticised the bridge project in the past, saying: “For many years it was a project that was a bit of an embarrassment really, because it dragged on; when was it ever going to open, we didn’t quite know.”

However, cynicism quickly gave way to a real sense of civic pride during the interview with news of the international award win that has seen Hull beat some mighty competition. Burns could barely contain his glee as he asked Leslie, “For a bit of local pride, whose backsides have we kicked here?” - to which the reply included architectural greats such the new concourse at Kings Cross in London, Malmö Central Station in Sweden and Stuttgart’s Main Station in Germany.

We spoke to Jonathan McDowell of the bridge’s architects McDowell+Benedetti to get his reaction to the award win. He told us: “People locally may not be aware of the world-class quality against which the bridge was competing but I am sure the award will help them feel proud of their new place. The award goes along well with the recognition that they are being given in the awarding to Hull of the UK’s 2017 City of Culture title.

“Since the bridge opened we have seen much positive comment from all sides and since the WAN Award was announced we have been told that several former detractors have now been voicing their appreciation locally. I think the international stamp of recognition of the award will really help people stand back and appreciate the bridge.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by the client, Hull City Council, and national development agency, the Housing & Communities Agency (HCA), which was also involved in the project. Trish Dalby, the Council’s Corporate Director for City Services commented: “Winning the award is fantastic news for the city and partners involved, especially beating worldwide competition of the likes of Kings Cross Station and Malmö Station. It recognises the innovation, aspiration and the quality of the design, and the on-going regeneration work taking place in Hull.”

Speaking for the HCA, Communications Manager Tom Hustler added: “The WAN Award will draw the bridge to the attention of the people of Hull, allowing them to see it in the same context of other prestigious schemes, and therefore how good the design of the bridge really is. The award win will also allow people to appreciate the benefits of the bridge not only as a bridge but also as a beautiful object in the heart of their city.”

Gail Taylor

Key Facts:

United Kingdom
Transport Urban design

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