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Bright future for Hungerford Bridge

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Lifschutz Davidson last week unveiled its final designs for the twin-decked Hungerford Bridge - a Millennium project aimed at providing better pedestrian linkages to the burgeoning array of attractions on London's South Bank.

The £26 million scheme will be built by the joint venture Costain-Norwest Holst, and, after the project's difficult procurement history, a signed agreement between all parties will ensure a watchful eye is kept on the design.

The scheme involves two light, symmetrical footbridges, each 4m wide and well lit from the balustrades, and suspended a 'respectful' 7m from the existing Charing Cross rail bridge, using its weight as a cantilever. Six pairs of steel pylons,18.5m above the concrete decks, are built on columns of the railway bridge. One is a double pylon to create a 'feature' and 'hub of activity' and give a visual emphasis to Surrey pier. This Brunel-designed pier will be opened up to allow access from one bridge to the other and act as a focus for the Southern side with potential for kiosks, exhibition space and commercial facilities such as a flower shop. Two lower-level link bridges connected by stairs funnel pedestrians to the front of the Royal Festival Hall and upstream next to the Hungerford Car Park site towards the new London Eye (Millennium Wheel). In this way the architects - and engineers wsp - have striven to reduce the perceived distance between the north and south banks while simultaneously opening up new views of the Houses of Parliament and creating 'pylon and cable' references to 1951's Festival of Britain. There are canopies for protection against the elements, but they were rejected for the entire length since, with wind, they would offer little protection.

Alex Lifschutz said at the launch last Thursday at the Royal Festival Hall that the project was 'not a finished object' and was only part of a list of recommendations for other improvements to the area. The architect is talking to Rick Mather about his plans for the South Bank Centre and, on the North Bank, coordinating with the World Squares For All project. Lifschutz also sees pontoons at the Surrey Pier for riverbuses as part of the vision.

At the launch, Westminster leader Melvyn Caplan said it was an 'exciting landmark project' with a 'fantastic design' and would provide the answer to a river which often presented a barrier. He expects seven million people to use it every year, twice as many as brave the current facilities. Transport Minister Glenda Jackson added that the bridges were definitely female - 'beautiful, elegant and nurturing.' The upstream bridge will be open in December next year, followed by the downstream bridge in April 2001.

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