Conceived by bridge specialists Knight Architects and structural engineers AKT II following a limited design competition in 2012, the 10-foot-wide cantilevered structure spans 65 feet across the Grand Union Canal and is raised using hydraulic jacks with an action similar to that of 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.
The five fabricated steel beams forming the deck open in sequence, with the first rising to an angle of 70 degrees and the last achieving the required clearance over the canal of 8 feet by 18 feet at mid channel. Shaped counterweights assist the hydraulic mechanism and reduce the energy required to move the structure. The bridge balustrades are formed from twin rows of inclined stainless steel rods, overlapping to form a robust filigree and highly transparent structure.
The handrail houses a continuous low-energy LED downlight which will provide excellent and uniform functional illumination of the walking surface and the edge, as well as offering an attractive lighting feature.
The bridge was required to replace an existing footbridge which was no longer functioning and which obstructed the new development. Legal access to the end of the dock for canal traffic required the bridge to be an opening structure and the developer, European Land & Property Ltd, saw the opportunity to commission a design which provided both function and delight.
The bridge forms part of the overall regeneration master plan of Merchant Square that will create a new focus for Paddington based around a new waterside garden square featuring a dedicated event space and water maze. When the whole regeneration project is complete, Merchant Square will comprise six buildings. The three remaining buildings include 1 Merchant Square, an iconic 42-story skyscraper incorporating apartments and a boutique hotel. In total, Merchant Square will provide over 600 residential units and 500,000 square feet of office space.