Pooley New Bridge

by Knight Architects

Client Cumbria County Council

Award RIBA North West Award 2022

© Sean Conboy

The new bridge design is the result of a tender by Cumbria County Council following the washing away of the historic crossing point. This catastrophe deeply affected the local community both psychologically and in terms of commercial business since the old bridge created a connection to amenities from the local tourist facilities.

The commission was not only to build a new bridge but to initially work with the community to establish the design concept. This engagement was undertaken to gain confidence in the bridge’s design and perceived longevity, whilst also respecting the designated World Heritage landscape setting. The architects produced three design approaches and ran three stakeholder consultations during the design process to ensure that the eventual design became more than just an essential piece of infrastructure within the community but a much loved piece of sculpture.

The design takes cues from the consultations but is still a unique piece of design created by the architects. It addresses the Environment Agency’s requirement to be single span so that no piers land in the water whilst maintaining a degree of elegance. The structural span allows water to pass through it, under the roadway, to address the community’s concerns that something more solid would potentially be liable to a repeat accident. It is also made from stainless steel which is 20% stronger than mild steel so can be lighter and allows the structure to weather naturally, befitting of setting.

Each end of the bridge springs from local stone walls, hiding the heavier bearings. The pedestrian walkways are etched with the names of all sponsors whose offerings were circulated into community projects. Railings are minimised to allow transparency through the bridge, again addressing the fear that something more solid could suffer a similar fate to the historic structure. Trief kerbs for vehicular movement are therefore also set back to the edge of the road rather than pavement and bridge edge.

The combination of innovation in design and community engagement has delivered a truly unique project with embedded social value. The project demonstrates the journey from community sensitivity following trauma, through logistical complications of delivery, to a piece of design appropriately embedded in a designated World Heritage landscape. The material choices demonstrate technological advancement and carbon saving.

The client's sympathy to solution came before the cost briefing and the architects have delivered a piece of infrastructure that feels very much part of the town without exceeding budget. The delightful realisation is that this is a road bridge, capable of taking any traffic movement when it is so easily perceived as a lightweight pedestrian bridge.

Location Penrith

Contractor Eric Wright Civil Engineering

Structural Engineers GHD

Project Management Mott MacDonald

© Sean Conboy
© Thomas McNally
© Peter Blair
© Steven Barber
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