No Such Thing as a Bridge Too Far in Dublin

Santiago Calatrava’s bridges in Dublin are getting some company in the form of Spencer Dock Bridge—a curvy structure designed by Future Systems. Linking the city center to a docklands redevelopment area, the new 131-foot-long span over Dublin’s Royal Canal will be located within the new Linear Park. It will carry automobile traffic, pedestrians, and one of the Luas streetcar lines.

Spencer Dock Bridge
Spencer Dock Bridge
Images courtesy Future Systems

Designed by Future Systems, Dublin’s new Spencer Dock Bridge features a 62-foot to 95-foot-wide, shallow deck—just two feet thick—supported at its center by two piers; at night, the bridge’s white concrete-clad underside will be illuminated with vibrant colored light (top). The center points of the bridge’s north and south sides bow out some 16 feet to form cantilevered decks over the water, offering pedestrians views up and down the canal (above).

Future Systems partner Amanda Levete compares the bridge’s shape to a manta ray, although this wasn’t her inspiration for its design. In plan view, the center points of the north and south sides bow out some 16 feet to form cantilevered decks over the water, offering pedestrians views up and down the canal. From west to east, the main deck slopes up like a fin, rising by some six feet along its length. The 62-foot to 95-foot-wide, shallow deck—just two feet thick—is supported at its center by two piers. At night, the bridge’s white concrete-clad underside will be illuminated with vibrant colored light.

Alan Dempsey, Future System’s project leader, says that the architect wanted to create a sculptural work that would integrate the surrounding infrastructure with Linear Park, designed by the French landscape architecture firm Agence Ter. “Their design blurs the distinction between canal and bank, and we were sympathetic to that sensibility.” The architect also wanted to introduce “some kind of civic aspect” into the project by adding the bridge’s viewing decks, which create potential meeting places for pedestrians.

The $6.8 million Spencer Dock Bridge was funded by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority and the Rail Procurement Agency. Construction is scheduled to be complete in 2008—the same year that Daniel Libeskind’s Grand Canal Performing Arts Centre and Galleria is due to be finished nearby. Both projects belong to a $9.5 billion, 15-year docklands regeneration scheme that also included Santiago Calatrava’s James Joyce Bridge, which opened in 2003, and his Samuel Beckett Bridge, which is due to be finished in 2008.

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