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WT Architecture's plans for 'climbing experience' centre at Forth Bridge revived

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WT Architecture has finally submitted its plans for a visitor building at Scotland’s iconic Forth Rail Bridge – six years after the scheme was first unveiled

The local practice lodged plans with the City of Edinburgh Council for the Bridge Walk Reception Hub, which will form part of a tourist attraction at the southern end of the 129-year-old crossing.

It marks a significant step in Network Rail’s proposals for the ‘exhilarating’ Forth Bridge Experience which will allow visitors to climb the bridge 110m above the estuary.

Some 80,000 visitors could walk up and along the famous bridge near Edinburgh every year using a harness and continuous safety line.

They would climb to a new viewing platform at the top above the river using existing and new walkways built into the structure.

WT Architecture revealed images of the proposals almost six years ago, when Network Rail was proposing a visitor centre and viewing platform in North Queensferry, as well as a facility at the southern side.

However, according to the backers, funding considerations encouraged taking forward a ’leaner, more focused bridge walk project with the potential to develop the business further in the future’.

After a hiatus, the proposals were revived earlier this year with a restructured Network Rail funding the scheme through its Scottish arm.

WT Architecture said extensive work with potential operators, Historic Environment Scotland and City of Edinburgh Council had seen designs evolve from a light-framed transparent pavilion to a bolder structure with concrete outer walls.

Network Rail’s planning application proposes the hub building for the site of an existing maintenance depot on the south side of the crossing located just 250m from Dalmeny station.

WT Architecture is working with Arup and landscape designers The Paul Hogarth Company on the overall scheme, which could be open within two years.

The practice said the building ‘echoes the ground-hugging defensive organic structures on escarpments, islands and hilltops around the Firth of Forth and adjacent First World War gun emplacements’.

It added: ‘The outer walls of the hub reinforce the defensive edge of the coastal escarpment where the bridge lands, using a wrapping rampart-like parapet as the access route to the bridge itself.

’A more vertical two-storey inner tower provides a descent route back from the bridge. To the east, the building’s walls are more open and welcoming, allowing visitors and light to flow in and out.

‘The sculptural carved appearance is accentuated by the use of in situ concrete, while contrasting Cor-ten screens reflect the site’s heritage as one of the main fabrication and assembly areas for the bridge construction.’

The Forth Bridge, designed by John Fowler and Benjamin Baker, was awarded Unesco World Heritage site status in 2015.

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