A collaboration between Belgian civic engineering firm Ney & Partners and London-based architect Williams Matthews has won the contest to design a new £4 million footbridge at Tintagel Castle, north Cornwall
The firms saw off competition from 2015 Stirling Prize finalist Niall McLaughlin, London Eye designers Marks Barfield, bridge experts Wilkinson Eyre, France’s Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes and Jean-François Blassel Architecte.
More than 130 entries were received in the contest - run by Malcolm Reading Consultants on behalf of English Heritage - with almost 40 per cent of submissions coming from overseas.
The new footbridge will link the ruins of the 13th-century coastal castle, the mythical home of King Arthur, and the nearby headland. The winning scheme will stand 28 metres higher than the current crossing and span more than 70 metres.
Ney and William Matthews’ winning design is based on two cantilevers and was inspired by studying Celtic history and the castle’s original drawbridge.
The bridge will use local slate the its decking and contrasting weathered and non-weathered steel for its other surfaces.
‘The narrow gap between the cantilevers represents the transition between the mainland and the island, here and there, the present and the past, the known and the unknown, reality and legend; all the things that make Tintagel so special and fascinating,’ explained the team in the presentation of its winning scheme.
Kaye Mavor, chief executive of English Heritage: ‘The winning team’s concept is daring and very exciting. It is not the final design but instead a brilliant indication of the team’s talent and imagination. We will now work with them on a design that will both complement the spectacular landscape and unlock for the visitor the history of the site.
‘In our new role as a charity, we are looking for new, imaginative ways to interpret the sites in our care and inspire our visitors – this bridge forms part of that approach.’
Chair of the jury Graham Morrison, said: ‘This is a strong and confident concept design with a thoughtful geometry that meets the demanding, multi-faceted Brief. The team presented with admirable clarity – both at interview and in the written materials. In the end, the jury was persuaded as much by the technical assurance of Ney’s proposal, and its buildability, as its aesthetics and sensitivity to the exceptional setting.’
Competition organiser, Malcolm Reading, added: ‘This competition attracted interest from nearly thirty countries and generated an impressive turn-out of top-tier firms. We would like to thank the shortlisted teams for their dedication and commitment and the jury for its insights and industry. The jury had to pick one winner, but each of the six finalists performed at the highest level, and the range of proposals was inspiring.’
The project is expected to complete in 2019.
Interview with Laurent Ney and Matthieu Mallié from Ney & Partners
How do you feel when you heard you had won?
We were both surprised and very pleased. Designing a buildable bridge in such delicate environment is a big challenge. It was therefore far from obvious that we would find the right answer and win this competition, certainly after seeing the quality of the other entries. We have celebrated the news not only with the team who worked on the project but with the entire office.
Do you enter many competitions and what is your strategy for winning?
We take part in around 10 to 12 bridge competitions per year. We focus on two things: the specific requirements of the client and the context (the famous genius loci). We try to tailor an appropriate answer to these demands.
Tell us about your collaboration with William Matthews – how did you pick each other?
William, who has worked with Renzo Piano, called us last year to collaborate on a bridge competition in Parma, Italy. In the past, we had already try to get in the Italian market, which is quite difficult. However, the opportunity to work with an experienced British architect who knew the Italian context convinced us to give it a try. At the end, our proposal didn’t meet the expectations of the jury. The positive part was that the collaboration with William was very natural and enjoyable. When he called us to participate to the Tintagel Bridge competition, we said yes immediately.
’The delay between the jury presentation and the announcement of the winner felt interminable’
How did you find the contest arrangements?
The competition was very well organised. The brief was very clear and left us enough freedom to look for innovative solutions. The communication was also professionally handled by all parties, which is a good thing and not always the case. The delay between the jury presentation and the announcement of the winner felt interminable but that is probably because we are so excited about this project.
There’s been some concern about the ‘Disneyfication’ of this elemental site – will your bridge satisfy the critics?
Working in such a historically important context requires sensitivity. The new bridge will improve access to the headland for visitors but our intention is that it integrates in the landscape, without becoming the focal point of the composition.
What advice do you have for architects wanting to work on bridges?
Matthieu Mallié, the project director for Ney & Partners, is a structural engineer; William Matthews is an architect with a great understanding of structures; and Laurent Ney is both an architect and engineer: this explains our collaboration. We are all used to combining both disciplines and we prefer to use the description of ‘structure designer’ rather than ‘engineer’ or ‘architect’. The process must be an equal marriage between the disciplines, as opposed to one dictating to the other.