Over the River Thames, the Hammersmith Bridge is one of London’s most iconic structures ever built. It was the first suspension bridge of its kind designed by a civil engineer, Sir Joseph Bazalgette, and was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1887. The Hammersmith Bridge features an imposing Victorian build using cast iron, wrought iron, and just shy of 1000 individual wooden plates. It is one of London’s lowest bridges, at a clearance height of only 12 feet above the water. The bridge connected the North and South sides of the Thames and was originally built for horses and carts. In recent times, the bridge serviced about 16,000 pedestrians and 22,000 vehicles daily until the 133-year-old, Grade II* listed bridge had to be closed for safety reasons due to decades of unchecked corrosion.
Architecture firm Foster + Partners, along with the Hammersmith and Fulham Council, have developed a proposal to build a temporary double-decker crossing within the existing bridge structure. The second deck would be in service for vehicular traffic to drive above the pedestrian and cycle deck. The lower tier would provide a safe platform for the restoration work to be carried out without adding any load to the existing bridge. The bridge elements, including pedestals, anchors, and chains, will be transported to an offsite restoration facility. This would ensure safety in repair and restoration activities, a faster pace of work, and consequently reduced cost, along with reducing the environmental impact and carbon footprint of the works.
The new structure is proposed to be assembled in two parts, launching one component from each side of the bridge. The ends are to be supported at each bank at the existing piers.
Luke Fox, Senior Executive Partner at Foster + Partners, says that the proposal is a simple solution to a missing piece in the infrastructure of London that gives the opportunity to bring the iconic bridge back to life. Foster + Partner’s head of structural engineering, Roger Ridsill Smith, says that their concept solves the economic and efficiency challenges of the Hammersmith Bridge.
The Hammersmith and Fulham Council estimated the repair cost of the bridge at £46 million to stabilize it and £141 million to restore it to a fully functional state. The radical proposal by Foster + Partners proves a more cost-efficient and safer solution to reopen the Hammersmith Bridge in partnership with structural engineers at COWI, specialists in the areas of engineering, environmental science, and economics. The iconic green and gold structure is protected by the public agency for the preservation and promotion of historic buildings and monuments of England, Historic England, and is a vital part of Britain’s engineering heritage.