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First look

Concertina-like footbridge completed in Leeds’ Climate Innovation District by Gagarin Studio and DP Squared

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Spanning the River Aire, the bridge provides a key pedestrian link while carrying the planned district heating network to the South Bank and City Centre

The new footbridge at the Climate Innovation District on Leeds’ South Bank, designed by Gagarin Studio and structural engineers DP Squared for developer Citu, is designed to connect both parts of the Climate Innovation District development which when finished will consist of 500 new low-carbon homes.

Gagarin and DP Squared had been developing the bridge design – the longest single span bridge in Leeds – over a number of years. It had undergone a number of iterations with an evolving brief, with the material palette simplified down to a single one: a maintenance-free weathering steel used throughout.

Gagarin leeds footbridge 513

Gagarin leeds footbridge 513

Source: Gagarin Studio

Architect’s view

This is an area of Leeds that had once played a vital role in the industrial and engineering revolution of the city, formerly a significant focus of life and activity. Our aim was to reintroduce a bridge that reflected this context with a nod to the vision and future ambition of the area.

The design developed through drawings, computer modelling, physical models, full size prototyping and good dialogue with the fabrication team both in the UK and Albania. 

The outcome is a bridge that is simple yet visually fascinating; the experience can vary too; whether at a distance, up close or in differing light.

From a distance the bridge elegantly springs from each bank; it is both simple and diaphanous with very little visual impact on the river setting. When closer its form folds and cranks through a series of profiles that create a concertina-like quality to bring sculptural interest and character for people crossing over or below the bridge.

Steve Gittner, co-founder, partner, Gagarin Studio

Gagarin leeds footbridge 173

Gagarin leeds footbridge 173

Source: Gagarin Studio

Engineer’s view

The challenge for the bridge deck was to meet the requirements for clearance over the river and the proposed landscaping levels on each bank, which were not at the same level. With a 50m span, 360m radius and 750mm structural depth the deck is very slender. A pair of Tuned Mass Dampers assist with vibration, and a combination of holding down bolts and bearings control vertical deflection. With its skew geometry over the river the bridge was parametrically modelled in Revit. All components relate back to the primary geometry so that any adjustment to clearance can be followed through to the concertina balustrade and landing levels.

The final scheme skilfully navigates all these constraints and technical demands whilst providing the South Bank with a high-quality piece of placemaking that is both beautiful and contextual.

Darren Paine, director, DP Squared 

Gagarin leeds footbridge 442

Gagarin leeds footbridge 442

Source: Gagarin Studio

Client’s view

We wanted it to be more than just a piece of infrastructure linking the two sides. We wanted it to be an attraction in its own right; it’s a stunning piece of design unlike anything else in the city. Thanks to the work of Gagarin Studio and DP Squared, this is exactly what we’ve achieved.

Jonathon Wilson, development director, Citu

Aj plan elevation

Aj plan elevation

Source: Gagarin Studio

Plan, elevation

Project data

Start on site July 2018
Completion date Sept 2019
Form of contract or procurement route JCT
Construction cost £800,000
Architect Gagarin Studio 
Client Citu
Structural engineer DP Squared
Landscape consultant Layer
Main contractor Beaver Bridges
CAD software used AutoCAD, Revit

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