Urban Design: Swinging Low in Hull

The Scale Lane Bridge in the English city of Hull is part walkway, part experience, featuring span that gives passengers a ride while allowing river traffic to pass. Photograph © Timothy Soar.

The River Hull has been the lifeblood of the English city of the same name for centuries, with vessels ferrying goods along the waterway during the the country’s industrial glory days. Now, the river has a new riparian jewel: the Scale Lane Bridge, designed by the architecture firm of McDowell+Benedetti, in collaboration with Alan Baxter Associates and Qualter Hall, it was the winning entry in a competition held in 2005.

Located on a former industrial site, the new structure serves as a pedestrian walkway, linking the west bank’s Museum Quarter to The Deep, the city’s aquarium (and an architectural gem in its own right). Its gently sweeping curved form provides two walkways, divided by a central spine. The spine itself provides opportunities for seating and terminates, at one end, in an observation platform with seating for walkers to pause and take in panoramic views of the river- and landscapes.

As architect Jonathan McDowell explains, “The bridge creates a unique and memorable new place for the city where people can enjoy the experience of being on the river.”

Beyond its appealing design, McDowell points out perhaps the bridge’s most compelling quality: “It creates a special event—the world’s first bridge (probably) that people can ride on while it is moving.” He and his team designed the bridge to rotate, opening up to river traffic as needed via an electrical drive mechanism and turns slowly enough that passengers can safely board the bridge from the west side. And while it’s opening, a sequence of bells, a sonic landscape designed by artist Nayan Kulkarni, provides accompaniment.

For pedestrians, the new bridge is a pleasure. For designers and urban planners looking to connect the land and water, it offers an innovative template. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>