The planning and construction of the Merchant Square footbridge in London’s Paddington is currently underway and is scheduled to be complete by 2014. The pedestrian bridge, designed by London based Knight Architects in collaboration with AKT II Consulting Structural Engineers, will span the Grand Union Canal over a width of 20 metres while guaranteeing a required clear passage of 5.5 x 2.5 metres.
The concept is simple and at the same time spectacular: an inconspicuous three metre wide deck is divided with the aid of hydraulic jacks into a series of cantilevered beams which rotate around the transverse axis – an elegant movement which resembles the opening of a Japanese fan. The rotary movement of the five prefabricated steel beams is staggered so that they start to move simultaneously and come to rest at the same time at different angles of inclination of between 20 and 80 degrees.
The load on the hydraulics is relieved by counterweights, which also reduce the energy required for operation. The balustrades are formed by stainless steel rods which intersect in a skewed pattern, creating a filigree structure. Continuous LED lighting is integrated into the handrail, illuminating the deck adequately and dramatically highlighting the balustrade.
The design of the bridge was chosen so that it will harmonise well with the prestigious, upmarket environment of Merchant Square. During the opening process, the bridge is transformed into a kinetic sculpture, the silhouette of which will emphasise the surrounding open space of ‘Sunset Terrace’