Commemorative Bridge, Islandbridge, Dublin

A Pair of Steel Ribbons
Competition Entry 2019

The commemorative bridge at Islandbridge completes the formal landscape designed by Edwin Lutyens by linking the Memorial Gardens to the north bank of the River Liffey and the Phoenix Park at a new entrance and Gathering Place on Chapelizod Road. This link also completes the circuitry walk from Chapelizod village to Islandbridge, and makes the gardens more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists. The landscape forms a sensitive context both environmnetally and culturally, and the design addresses this through a lightness of touch that minimises the impact on both.

The new entrance and pedestrian bridge constitute a spatial and temporal sequence leading to the Memorial Gardens. The sequence has been considered as a chronology of gathering, crossing and commemoration. The gathering place on the north bank is an extension of the wooded landscape of the Phoenix Park and is designed as a woodland clearing – a meeting place. The existing trees are kept and their picturesque qualities are reinforced through the hard landscaping. The western edge towards the UCD boathouse is formed by a new line of lime trees and lower planting, that link the space to the Memorial Gardens through shared species of trees. Interpretative panels and seating are incorporated into the hard landscaping.

The bridge is the crossing between landscapes and is placed in the axis of the Memorial Gardens so that it completes the formal composition. This is the place to stop and view the river, reflecting on the passage of time and the changing light, in contrast to the formal landscape of the gardens, as was suggested in Lutyens himself. We believe that a demonstrative structural statement would be inappropriate in this context and have instead opted for a subtle solution using a stress ribbon structure. The stresses applied mean that it can lightly curve to span the river and then drape over concrete supports on the two banks. The catenary curve of the ribbon heightens the experience of crossing the river and the widths of the granite faced concrete planks vary to reflect this; being broadest at the midspan suggesting pause for reflection. The arrival into the static  geometry of the Memorial Gardens is softened by seeding the area closest to the river with wildflowers. These flowers frame the space of the river and evoke gentler forms of commeration that compliment the constructed landscape of the gardens themselves.