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Feature on Bridges

Renaissance Bridge, River Great Ouse, Bedford

Renaissance Bridge, River Great Ouse, Bedford

SmithKline Beecham Footbridge, Harlow

SmithKline Beecham Footbridge, Harlow

SmithKline Beecham Footbridge, Harlow

SmithKline Beecham Footbridge, Harlow


Curved steel sections open up new scope for the design and construction of steel bridges. Standard steel beams and tubes can be quickly and economically curved to radii to suit individual project needs.

They can be curved to simple circular curves, to elliptical or parabolic curves, to co-ordinates or even to mathematical equations - enabling steel bridges to be constructed in a wide range of forms.

Curved metal bridges have, of course, been with us since the industrial revolution but the cost of the materials (mainly cast-iron and riveted wrought-iron) used by the Victorians would be prohibitive today. Similarly, the cost of fabricating special curved members is relatively high. Now, standard steel beams can be economically curved to radii to suit individual project needs.

Arched bridges create a sense of the grandeur that was such an important part of the Victorian age. But such elegance is no less relevant today. The ready availability of economically curved beams opens up new scope for the creative design of bridges and footbridges.


Two striking examples of the use of curved steel tubes are provided by the new Renaissance Bridge across the River Great Ouse at Bedford and SmithKline Beecham's new 41 metre span footbridge at Harlow.

Both comprise twin parabolic tubular arches and both have shallow decks suspended below the arches by rod hangers. But there the similarity ends. Visually, they are very different.

While the arches at Harlow are canted inwards nearly touching at the centre, the 30-metre span Renaissance Bridge has arches which are sprung from a single point on each bank and canted outwards, giving it a very distinctive look - such that it has become known as the 'Butterfly Bridge'.

The Renaissance Bridge was designed by Chris Wilkinson Architects with Jan Bobrowski & Partners for Bedford Borough Council; main contractor Littlehampton Welding.

SmithKline Beecham Bridge was designed by Amec Design & Management with steelwork by S H Structures.

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