The Eye of the Fish

April 11, 2009

Inhabited bridges

This posting takes as it’s start the musings of a regular reader / commenter, “Starkive”, with a musing on the possibility of covering / incorporating the proposed overpass across the Basin Reserve with…  


…no, not ants, but with something:

As it happens I am a cricket tragic and – to the extent that being an Auckland supporter will allow – a Basin lover. I have often slumped on the grassy bank and plotted how much better the ground could be while still remaining the Basin. Most of those plots involve the northern end of the ground where a new structure between the Vance stand and the embankment could house decent food and toilet facilities, provide for a somewhat larger crowd and break up the northerly. It does seem to me that the right design (!) could exploit opportunities provided by a flyover structure.

So, while I am dead against a high flying overpass for the purposes of traffic, let’s just muse for a moment that it may go ahead. Our Worship the Mayor, has after all made mention that the motorway overpass may be able to be partially disguised with a building, or buildings.  


Buildings on bridges have been done before, and hold a certain romantic vision for some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on, but not, as far as I know, buildings on the side of a motorway. Yes, we know, it’s not officially a motorway, but to be honest, its not just a quiet suburban street either.

It’s State Highway No 1 and holds a massive amount of traffic intent on getting as fast as possible to the other side of the city. It’ll be at least 2 lanes wide, no stopping anywhere along the overpass route, and so will generate a fair bit of noise and car fumes. Not the sort of place that you might want to carefully dawdle and pick up some touristy knick-knacks, such as the Pulteney Bridge in Bath.  


and  the Ponte Vecchio in Florence,


I’m picking that trying to find a building use that doesn’t mind having roaring petrolheads and diesel trucks running behind their doors or above/below their floorboards might be a little in short supply. But searching around the internet reveals that, as always, some things have been done before.


This particular number is a building by Odile Decq, secreted below a motorway in France. And also in France, there is a much older example in Britanny, with a more sedate pedestrian-oriented bridge over a weir on a quiet babbling river. 


There’s some interesting things shown in the fantastic BLDG BLOG, in a posting about living in Dams, and a chapter Chapels on Bridgesfrom a book on Church Lore by William Andrews.


with some great pictures and story behind the original London Bridge – inhabited for centuries until it all fell down / was demolished. Apparently the building of bridges in bygone times was regarded as a religious duty, 

“It was very usual,” says Leland, “in greater brydges to build chappells in which they did pray for the soules of their founders.”There were other reasons for erecting chapels, one being for the place of residence for the priests to solicit alms from all who passed over the bridge, whether walking or riding, to keep it in repair. Some were built for sheltering benighted travellers, having crypts where rest and refreshment might be obtained. In these chapels, the wayfarer could pray for protection on his journey, and return thanks for safety after his undertaking had been completed. Travelling, in mediæval times, was beset with trial and hardship on every side. 


One of the side effects of the great amount of traffic on London Bridge would of course have been the amount of horse dung, which I presume just got turned to dust or else the dung was simply flung over the side. Possibly one of the reasons that the Save the Basin are so dead against the proposal.

There are proposals for structures that may be more fantasy than fantastic, in a scheme by Koolhaas for the Emirate of Ras al Khaimah high in the mountains in the Arab Emirates,


or even the proposals for an inhabited bridge structure by architects Cartwright Pickard, but there are also still inhabited structures such as this one in Kramerbrucke in Germany,  


or this housing structure looking very sinuous and pedestrian-oriented in Entrepotbrug in the Netherlands:  


Lastly though we should look to the future, with this proposal in Hamburg by architect Hadi Teherani, where 5 stories of living accommodation span across the Elbe, (but no motorway):


and of course there is virtually nothing today that Zaha Hadid hasn’t done, and here she is in Spain with a so-called Inhabited bridge across the river in Zaragoza:


of which there are many, many, fantastic photos available here and here. Food for thought, no doubt, but also perhaps some indication that if you want to have a bridge with buildings, then combining it with a motorway may not work so well as when you combine it with shopping and residential.

My fervent wish therefore, is that if it should come to this – of building a bridge across the Basin – that we hold an international competition for ideas and proposals, and invite some people to contribute – such as Hadid and Calatrava. This is far too important to be left to the likes of the NZTA.

12 - 04 - 09

Inspiring as some of these examples are, I have never gone so far as to imagine a structure which actually crosses the Basin – rather a second tier on the current ring road to the north of the ground. Something for Jesse Ryder to aim at. And something to hang more cricket furniture from.

After all, it is not without precedent for something extra-terrestrial to set down on hallowed turf…

12 - 04 - 09

Yes, that was quite an amazing thing when Future Systems got the go ahead to build the Media Centre at Lords. I never quite thought that the old cricket fogeys would say yes, but it shows that they were prepared to think outside the box, as Jan Kaplicky did every time….

There are parallels there too – the Lords grounds has a busy road on one or two sides, and these sides are shielded by tall stands. And I think the Media Centre is at the back, facing into the sun. There are some more photos of Lords here:

12 - 04 - 09

But despite the prominence that Lords gets, and the evident amount of money they have to spend on their hallowed turf, do they ever get headlines and stories like this one from the Wellingtonian: “The world’s best cricket ground?” by Joseph Romanos
“Cricket lovers sampled all sorts of weather during the cricket test against India at the Basin Reserve. That’s to be expected when a test is scheduled in Wellington in April.
However, everyone – visiting International Cricket Council officials, Indian journalists and players, and umpires – agreed that on the first day, when the weather was outstanding, there was no finer test cricket ground in the world. What makes the Basin so special, visitors emphasised, is the asphalt path around the perimeter of the field. That’s what differentiates the Basin from any old stadium. Cricket fans can walk around the ground, stopping where they like, all the while watching the game.”

Not being a great cricket fan myself, I’m a little confused. The “asphalt path around the perimeter” – are they talking about the 4 lane highway encircling the grounds on the outside, or is there more asphalt inside?

12 - 04 - 09

The Basin has a pathway between the picket fence and the stands/embankments/hot dog carts which, as Romanos says, allows for boulevardiers to circumnavigate the ground at their leisure – to see the game from every angle and to receive the jeers and sartorial advice of their fellow spectators.

Understanding the pleasures of the stroll makes it clear why the Stadium is so utterly wrong as a cricket ground. All that the Basin needed to continue to host all major cricket in Wellington was the installation of floodlights – an improvement shot down by the massed ranks of the Mt Victoria Lights Out League. As the Stadium has never attracted more than 15,000 people to a cricket match, I live in hope that a carefully upgraded Basin, with lights, might still host all of Wellington’s international matches again.

13 - 04 - 09

I’m annoyed that I missed this event at the basin last night:
ALL AGLOW: Twenty hot air balloons lit up the sky for about half an hour about six o’clock yesterday ….
The Wellington wind paused just long enough for these hot-air balloons to inflate and light up last night. Local sculptor and balloon owner Denis Hall said it was “a bit of a fluke” that the weather came through for last night’s nightglow during the Balloons at the Basin fiesta.
“It’s just something you deal with on the night we were more nervous during the week, watching the weather forecasts.”
The 20 balloons lit up the sky for about half an hour about six o’clock before rising winds raised safety concerns.
Balloonists from Whangaparaoa to Christchurch came to Wellington for the event, which has not been staged at the Basin Reserve before. Balloons gathered at Oriental Bay last year. Mr Hall estimated about six or seven thousand people attended. Ballooning was a hobby like any other, and attracted people from all walks of life, he said. “Some people have boats, some have sports cars, some have model airplanes we have balloons.”

Stephen Judd
13 - 04 - 09

The Pontiff is originally the pontifex, which was a pre-Christian religious office in Rome held by the chief of all the priests inherited by the bishop of Rome, and it means builder of bridges.

13 - 04 - 09

Aaah, of course. That makes some sort of sense, and yet, at the same time, no sense. Much as I am sure many worship the holy ground that he walks on, I don’t want him to design a new bridge across the Basin either. Popes should keep to their knitting, so to speak.

But it does show that the importance of the road makers and bridge builders in a society has been a fantastically important role for years. Well, millennia even.

So let’s not stuff this one up.

13 - 04 - 09

Although, Starkive, it must be noted, it seems that not all cricket fans love the Basin. In DomPost letters today:
“Whoever thought it a good idea to play a cricket test at Wellington’s Basin in April should be forced to sit in the R A Vance stand for five days wearing only underpants.”
B THOMAS, Upper Hutt

I presume that is seen as a punishment? Or is it a reward? Possibly even a new 20/20 uniform?

7 - 05 - 09

and since then, it seems that, according to the Arch Centre, the Guardian’s architectural journalist in the UK has been picking up on the story of inhabited bridges – based on a alleged proposal by Boris Johnstone, the Mayor of London.
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