Reviving Hammersmith Bridge
Pell Frischmann is undertaking the design for the refurbishment of the Victorian Grade II* listed heritage structure, working with TfL, London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, and London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. We sat down with Hammersmith Bridge’s (and our very own) Project Director Dr Sas Majlessi, to discuss the revival and its future implications on the surrounding community.
What does reviving the bridge mean?
“Hammersmith Bridge is a beautiful example of aspirational engineering. It was built with the finest methods available at the time and it deliberately went beyond functionality to become both a vital piece of infrastructure and an iconic landmark for the Thames. We must do our best to revive that legacy. Wrought and cast iron technology changed the industrial world in the 1800s. Over time corrosion can become significant and closing Hammersmith Bridge to make the changes were necessary.
When people talk about reviving something historic, they often mean preserving the structure and its historic legacy – but there is something better than that. For example, we have been working on the reconstruction of two ageing Victorian bridges in South London facing similar corrosion and functionality issues. The aim for Hammersmith Bridge is to develop solutions for its critical elements and give it a new lease of life to continue as a working bridge. That is its true legacy as an engineering marvel”.
What happens next?
“With modern materials and new technology my team can come up with innovative solutions for this project in ways that were not possible in the past, whilst remaining sympathetic to the heritage of the structure. Unlike thirty years ago for example, we can now deploy Building Information Modelling (BIM) and 3D simulation to examine various outcomes. That will help initiate design works that – with the co-operation of all our partners – can secure a functional future for the bridge without affecting its beauty. Past strengthening works would not have had that technology available, so we have a lot more scope now to reinvigorate some of its beauty while still preserving its historic essence in serving peoples’ lives.
Various design options and pragmatic solutions are considered to bear in mind public safety, heritage and the environment. New technology cannot remove the role of experiences engineers in this process but it can help us work faster and safer.
Safety and sustainability are key considerations for the whole project. This iconic structure has already been servicing as a valuable Thames crossing for over 130 years, so it is essential to provide a design which is sustainable as we give it a new lease of life”.
What has gone wrong with Hammersmith Bridge?
“The main issues are corrosion with age and structural stiffening. Hammersmith Bridge is over 130 years old and time, along with progressive use, have been heavy weights on the structure. Those 130 years have seen an impact from the weather, fatigue, old repairs, and from huge social change such as the motorcar replacing the horse and carriage”.
What will become of Hammersmith Bridge?
“The best engineering starts with questions, not answers. We will have to consider and assess every eventuality in detail and liaise with our delivery partners and stakeholders about what is possible and what is preferable whilst developing the design. We will be working collaboratively with our client TfL, asset owner London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, and key stakeholders Historic England, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, Port of London Authority and others – to decide what design options the future holds. Hopefully, we will then be able to develop innovative and practical solutions to keep the bridge working as the vital piece of infrastructure it deserves to be, while retaining and reinvigorating its historic wonder”.
Alongside TfL, LB Hammersmith and Fulham, LB of Richmond upon Thames, Historic England and Port of London Authority, we look forward to the revitalisation of Hammersmith Bridge, preserving it as one of the most iconic structures in Britain.