Ian Ritchie Architects were selected as one of six international teams in 2003 to take part in the Leamouth Bridge Design Competition.
A bridge connects. Sometimes one side of the divide desires to reach the other. Our proposal for the Leamouth Bridge clearly springs from the Leamouth peninsula, an urban area undergoing the early signs of renaissance from its rich industrial heritage. Our bridge design expresses this desire and history through the sliding opening mechanism and the Corten steel from which it is made. We chose an opening bridge to limit the extent of ramps, the impact upon both the urban and landscaped areas of the river banks, and to allow pedestrians easy access without having to resort to lifts. It has generous proportions and a simple curve and carries pedestrians and cyclists from Orchard Place in one continuous motion across the river to landscaped ramps and stairs allowing direct access to and from all the desired destinations – the bus stops, underground and DLR station and the Lower Lea Crossing.
Approaching the bridge and crossing the bridge will be two radically opposite and complementary experiences. The outside has gravitas. It is very monolithic and Corten has a rich natural colour which changes slowly with time. Underneath the deck on the south side, a shallow water basin provides a resting place in the shadow of the bridge, and at night, projects moving reflections on the underbelly, gradually more intense as the bridge meets the ground. The internal faces of the bridge are clad with narrow strips of Cumaru timber and as at 6 metres above mean high water springs there is no need for protection, a low balustrade at a comfortable 1.2 metre allows people to enjoy the river views. A series of vertical slots in the upstands give children opportunities to see out. In its width and height, the bridge has a human scale, and has very low maintenance requirements. After dusk, glass fibre optic delivered light illuminates the paths randomly.