London's "Japanese fan" footbridge opens to the public

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The newly-opened Merchant Square Footbridge in Paddington, London, opens like a Japanese fan

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A footbridge over a canal is not usually something that would attract attention for being an architectural spectacle. The recently-opened Merchant Square Footbridge, however, has five "fingers" that are raised and lowered like a Japanese fan.

Gizmag featured the Merchant Square Footbridge last year, following an announcement that the competition-winning design would indeed be built. Created by Knight Architects, the bridge crosses London's Grand Union Canal at Paddington Basin, close to the end of the canal. Despite its location, there is a requirement for the waterway to be kept clear, hence the need for bridges to be able to provide a minimum amount of clearance.

The bridge is 3 m (9.8 ft) wide and is split into five separate "fingers" that open in a staggered formation. Offset bearings are used to achieve this effect, with the first finger rising to an angle of 67 degrees and the final finger being raised enough to provide the required 2.5 m (8.2 ft) high by 5.5 m (18 ft) wide clearance over the middle of the canal.

A bascule, or counterweighted, mechanism is used to lift the leaves of the bridge and is driven by a hydraulic system. Each leaf weighs about 6 tonnes (6.6 tons) and has a crossing span of just over 17 m (56 ft).

The Merchant Square Footbridge was opened to the public in September.

View gallery - 8 images

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