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How community engagement helped Warren and Mahoney design Auckland’s newest footbridge

The Hendon Footbridge, also known as Te Whitinga, links Auckland’s Alan Wood Reserve with Kukuwai Park. The 300-metre bridge is part of the new Waterview Connection tunnel, and will officially open shortly when tunnel commissioning and testing programmes are completed.

Warren and Mahoney, in partnership with Boffa Miskell, took the architectural lead in building the bridge, a pedestrian and cycle route across the Northwestern motorway. It is an integral part of the Waterview Connection, designed and built by the Well-Connected Alliance for the New Zealand Transport Agency to complete Auckland’s Western Ring Route motorway network. 

Community engagement was an essential driver of the design process. “There was huge public interest in this infrastructure development and liaising with board members and residents gave us the opportunity to do something transformative, and to be aspirational for the local community,” explains project designer Shannon Joe, project designer.

Designed using 3D parametric modelling, the bridge has an elegant sculpted arch in white steel which supports a suspended deck on steel cables. The non-parallel alignment of arch and footbridge allows the deck to ‘float’ in space.

“It’s a simple but definitive form which marks the entry to a tunnel that is one of New Zealand’s most technical, innovative and ambitious ventures in infrastructure advancement,” explains Joe.

Warren and Mahoney also created the ventilation stacks and portals at the entry to the Waterview Tunnel, as well as the ancillary buildings that service the development. 

“There is endemic recognition of the geographical and cultural history in the scheme,” says Tom Locke, project architect.

Mirror-image ventilation stacks at the northern and southern ends act as the portal’s dividing walls. They are significant markers, a “pou” staked into the ground, which can be seen from afar on approach.  To provide efficient draw, the concrete stacks have a throat size of 60 square metres. That could have resulted in a squat, plain and ugly shape. Instead, their tall, angular form is inspired by the obsidian glass tools early M?ori used to turn the ground, and the faceted faces have an aerofoil-like quality. “We worked hard to make the stacks sculptural and to imbue a suggestion of dynamism when viewed from a car travelling at 80 kilometres an hour,” says Locke.

Yellow-glazed façades on the portal building that houses the mechanical plant are softened with a subtle veil of aluminium louvres. These reference the vertically striated pattern of basalt columns left over from cooled lava flows that were present across the site. At night internal lighting allows the building to glow gently, a more welcoming aspect on approach to the tunnel.

Locke claims that Te Whitinga (which means “the crossing” in Te Reo) and the utilitarian yet sculptural ventilation stacks and portals are strong design outcomes that, as part of the $1.4 billion Waterview Connection, contribute positively to the public realm.  “On a global scale, bridges and other infrastructural elements have become icons of place,” he says. “This is infrastructure that moves beyond bland, purposeful design to something the city can be proud of.”

Here are some other eye-catching pedestrian bridges worth mentioning.

Bridge of Peace

Location: Tbilisi, Georgia

Stretching 150 metres over the Kura River, the Bridge of Peace (Georgian: mshvidobis khidi) is a bow-shaped pedestrian bridge. At night, thousands of LED lights can illuminate the bridge in a variety of stunning colours and patterns. Opened in 2010, the bridge is seen as a major symbol of Georgia’s rebirth following a 2008 war with Russia.

Tilikum Crossing

Location: Portland, Oregon

The first major bridge in the US designed to allow access to transit vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians but not cars, Tilikum Crossing spans the wide Willamette River. In honour of the Native Americans who lived in the area before European colonists arrives, the bridge is named after the Chinook word for people.

Rialto Bridge

Location: Venice, Italy

Dating back to 1591, the Rialto Bridge might be the most famous pedestrian bridge in the world. Yet it’s slowly crumbling under the weight of tens of millions of tourists who cross it every year.

Langkawi Sky Bridge

Location: Langkawi, Malaysia

Akin to an observation deck, this bridge soars hundreds of metres above sea level on Malaysia’s west coast. Reached by cable car up Mount Mat Cincang, its views are nothing short of spectacular. The bridge was completed in 2005.

Kurilpa Bridge

Location; Brisbane, Australia

Masts attached to cables jut out from this bridge in all directions, calling to mind something Dr Seuss might come up with. Powered by 84 solar panels, the bridge also puts on dazzling shows thanks to its LED lighting system.

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