British firm Knight Architects and structural engineers AKT II recently completed the Merchant Square Footbridge, a bridge in Paddington, London that opens and closes like a traditional, Japanese hand fan. Consisting of five steel steel beams that rise and fall using hydraulic jacks, the structure is both a kinetic sculpture and a fully functioning footbridge that allows pedestrians to safely walk 20 meters across the Grand Union Canal.
The 3-meter-wide, cantilevering deck rises every Friday to let boats sail underneath. The five beams, which are hinged on one side, open in sequence while shaped counterweights assist the hydraulic mechanism, thereby reducing the energy needed to move the structure. Handrails on the bridge feature built-in strips of LED lighting to illuminate the bridge at night.
European Land CEO Richard Banks, who is working to develop the waterside area, says, “Bridges are a crucial element of the built environment at Merchant Square and, therefore, it was important for the new footbridge crossing the Grand Union Canal to enhance the public realm, not only practically but visually. Knight Architects have achieved this by introducing vertical movement to the design to create a bridge that is highly visible and dramatic.”
Photos by Edmund Sumner, Peter Cook / Courtesy of Knight Architects