Three guess how this novel design for a footbridge to be built in Salford, UK got its name: the O. Its distinctive ring provides support for the walkway it surrounds. In a sense this is two bridges in one. Two thirds of the bridge is suspended in order to span the entire width of the River Irwell, while the final third is supported by columns.
It sounds great in theory, but will it work? "We were working closely together with engineers and structural experts up to a point where the structural principle and the dimensions were correct," Chris Precht of penda tells Gizmag. He designed the bridge alongside Alex Daxböck. "For this phase you just can go to a certain point of detailing all the details out. It certainly still needs a lot of work hours, workforce and a great client to do so, but the structural principle, knowhow, technical consultants and a lots of passion to make it happen, we certainly have."
That said, the ring is mainly decorative. "To be frank, a pedestrian bridge with this span doesn't necessarily need to be suspended from a pylon," Precht tells us. "But this is where the idea of creating a landmark with its structure comes into play."
The intent, then, is to create an iconic design to put the locality, Salford Meadows, on the proverbial map. It might sound redundant to say that this bridge looks fundamentally different depending on your perspective (that's true of all bridges after all), but there's more to it than that. The designers point out that viewed side on from the east or west, the bridge looks like any old cable-stayed footbridge, the ring appearing almost as a lone pylon. From the north or south, though, the true form of the bridge is revealed.
The design is one entry in a RIBA-sponsored competition for the design of a Salford Meadows footbridge, the results of which will be announced towards the end of November. Precht is optimistic. "Hopefully one day the O will find its way from paper to reality."