The campus of the University of Limerick has expanded across the river Shannon, a fast flowing salmon river with numerous shoals and islands. The task faced by the Wilkinson Eyre team, most of whom worked on the Stirling Prize-winning Millennium Bridge in Gateshead, was not only to link the two parts of the campus with an effective route, but also to make the bridge a place in its own right so that the experience of crossing the river should be an enjoyable and eventful experience, uniting rather than dividing the campus.
The design is an organic response to a unique natural environment, indeed it appears to grow out of the landscape. It is designed with six spans of trusses describing a curving promenade, each 40 metre span consisting of a tied catenary truss with a level handrail. The spans were prefabricated on the riverbank and dropped by crane onto sculptural tetrapod legs carefully sited on the shoals of the riverbed. Above each of the legs the bridge widens out to create informal and sociable places equipped with seats and glazed windbreaks, populated by lounging students.
What might have been a mere technical solution to a practical design problem, has been elevated by sensitive architecture to make a poetic statement about the river which is at the heart of the campus, crossed by a bridge that is attractive both in distant views and when its spans are glimpsed through the attractive riverside landscape.