North London University is to give Zaha Hadid the opportunity to construct her first British building, with its selection of her design for a bridge to link its campus across the Holloway Road. Connecting the new technology tower (designed by Rick Mather Architects in an earlier competition win) with Stapleton House and Eden Grove, the bifurcated design is a dynamic one which can be extended with new links. This flexibility is vital as the university has not yet determined the precise form of future developments.
The architect sees the bridge as 'a glowing information highway', with the internal corridor across the road acting as 'a digital newspaper for students with posters, bulletins and audio display'. The external facade will act as an 'urban newspaper' carrying moving images and projection. There will be 'sky lobbies' at the landing points, incorporating cafes, libraries and seminar rooms.
Working with engineer Jane Wernick Associates, Hadid has developed a structure using the trusses that support the bridge to form the sides of the walkways. The bracing works with the cladding to produce patterns of light and shade within the bridge. Supporting columns are inclined to provide the support for the lateral loads, and pick up the walkways wherever they change direction. The team also includes Ove Arup and Partners as building-services, facade and transport consultant, and Davis Langdon & Everest as quantity surveyor.
In an invited competition for ten practices, Hadid beat a final shortlist of Ahrends Burton & Koralek, Alsop & Stormer, Whitby & Bird and Chris Wilkinson. abk was runner-up with a steel monocoque design incorporating curved glass.
The bridge is part of a £50 million redevelopment plan for the university, and fulfils the twin aim of creating a more visible presence on the Holloway Road, while making its circulation independent of it.