The brief for a replacement footbridge at Merchant Square in Paddington, London called for a piece of moveable architecture that will act as a focal point for the waterfront public space, to be opened at least once a week. The opportunity for the bridge to provide drama in its movement inspired the team and the relatively modest 20m span suggested that only vertical movement would offer this drama. The resulting 3m cantilevered bridge is divided into five slender steel fingers which are raised in sequence using hydraulic jacks with an action similar to a traditional Japanese hand fan. This creates a kinetic sculpture whose silhouette is both legible and extraordinary and which is well suited to the position next to the canal.

By dividing the beam into five discrete ‘fingers’, the energy required to raise the beams is significantly reduced bringing the technology down to the scale of components routinely found on construction vehicles, thereby simplifying maintenance. Shaped counterweights assist the hydraulic mechanism and they also provide a clue to the movable function of the bridge that is not apparent when closed.

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