The city of bridges should be building smarter bridges

5 Min Read
Conceptual bridge design linking Kangaroo Point to the Brisbane CBD

Brisbane, unashamedly a river city that is sliced in half by the mighty Brisbane River, not only needs more bridges but needs smarter, greener bridges.

By international standards, it is quite evident that Brisbane, a city of 2.5 million people lacks river crossings of any kind, bridges or tunnels.

Our bridges, whilst practical are neither aesthetically functional nor internationally ‘iconic’ in design. They do the job of a bridge, getting you from one side of the river, to the other.

But what if they could do and be more? What if they could become destinations in themselves and thus drive tourism?

The Brisbane City Council has announced plans to build four new green bridges, (four because a bridge across Breakfast Creek is not a Brisbane River crossing) at Kangaroo Point to the CBD, Toowong to West End, St Lucia to West End and Bellbowrie.

Concept bridge design from Toowoong to West End
Concept green bridge design from Toowong to West End
Concept green bridge design from Teneriffe to Bulimba

This is not only a fantastic opportunity to connect Brisbane, but it’s also a way to grow visual architectural drawcards of Brisbane to drive tourism and showcase ‘subtropical bridge design’.

Green’s Councillor Jonathan Sri has echoed the sentiment about architecture and design of bridge infrastructure saying that bridges don’t just have to be transport links from one side of a waterway to the other.

“They can also double as useable public spaces in their own right. If we’re going to build a bridge anyway, we might as well maximise its usefulness for recreation and leisure.” – Councillor Jonathan Sri

Engineering wise, it is very possible for these new bridges to feature parks, trees, chill-out zones and even grassy areas with views over the river. This is all possible through design and the client, the Brisbane City Council demanding innovative architecture.

Of course, the budget bottom line will come into play, like it always does, but we need to remember that these bridges will be here longer than anyone reading this article.

In 100+ years, they will still be here. The domestically-iconic Story Bridge is around 80 years old and likely has another 50-100 years of service.

These bridges need to be future-focused and showcase not world-class but world-leading subtropical architecture that we have not yet seen before. The possibilities are endless.

LWK + PARTNERS ‘Hanging Garden Bridge’ design in Dubai
LWK + PARTNERS ‘Hanging Garden Bridge’ design in Dubai

What are subtropical bridges?

According to Councillor Sri, he would like to see plenty of roofing/shade, comfortable places to stop and sit where you can watch the river or watch other passersby, nooks for buskers, lookouts for photo opportunities, and adaptable open spaces with access to electricity that can be used for outdoor theatre or pop-up gigs.

Artist’s impression of Providence River Green Bridge design in Rhode Island
Pedestrian Bridge by Mohamed Elbangy

Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said he had a vision for a cleaner, greener and more active Brisbane and these new bridges would tackle traffic congestion by improving cross-river public and active transport connections.

“These five bridges will transform Brisbane and make us an active, healthy and better connected city.

“My very first act as Lord Mayor was to announce this plan and I am now handing the planning over the people of Brisbane as we want to hear the community’s thoughts on the proposed alignment of the bridges.

“The community is crucial in the planning and delivery of these five bridges, as this infrastructure will transform the way residents and visitors get around Brisbane.” – Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner on Council’s plan for Green Bridges

The Brisbane City Council are planning to fund at least two-thirds of the new bridges and will seek contributions from the State and Federal Government for the balance of the funding.

Community consultation has officially closed to the public for the City Council’s new bridge designs. It is now up to council to prove that we’re architectural leaders and not just concerned about A-B efficient design.

Artist’s impression of the new Neville Bonner Bridge – soon to be under construction.
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  • Some nice designs which would no doubt look good spanning the Brisbane River. If we already had four of five more free all vehicle bridges by all means start building more ‘nice’ lifestyle infrastructure. Congestion could easily be reduced if more free all vehicle bridges crossed the river more than 3 kilometres from the CBD, many vehicle trips would suddenly become much shorter. Why not do an article on designs for all vehicle bridges including cycle, pedestrian and public transport access. Designs for Park and Ride facilities in the suburbs would also be interesting, another way to get people onto public transport and help bust congestion.

  • They might look good but most of those designs look like they will make a good log jamb during the next flood.

  • Much better designs for the city. Brisbane is currently just building non stop and not designing and building smarter. The council has the opportunity for this booming city to live up to its name as a ‘New World City’. These designs may take us there. It’s time to do the same with the high risers.

  • These designs are really nice but all lack sufficient height to allow masted vessels (yachts) to travel under. There must be clearance for masts 100 ft to be safe. Brisbane has a history of sailing vessels sailing right up to the Gardens Reach. It would be a shame to exclude this aspect of our city.

  • Brisbane… the river city… also, the flood city. The issue with parklands and large reclaimations required mid river for most of the schemes presented in the affect on flooding afflux.

    So nice ideas, but a lot of work to make them viable

  • I would question whether every single one of these bridges needs to be a post-modern ‘conceptual’ monstrosity. Can one or two of them not apply more elegant and traditional design principles, perhaps taking inspiration from the story bridge, Walter Taylor bridge, or the the old Victoria Bridge?

    With all our recent bridges both completed (such as the Kurilpa and Goodwill bridges) and approved (see the Kangaroo Point and Queens Wharf designs) competing to have the most abstract and jumbled geometric forms possible – the way to stand out would be to return to timeless older designs.

    • I suppose the main issue is the lack of shade and areas to relax and view the river, which the bridges you mention don’t provide. That would be a sensible inclusion for these new bridges to not only provide missing links, but also to enable people to view the river and potentially provide a new tourism opportunity

  • Every one of those bridges will kill Brisbane’s reputation for being the best location for international sailors visiting Australia.
    International sailors come on sailboats and ther is not enough clearance to accommodate a masted vessel.
    The Kangaroo Point Brisbane reach bridge will make the iconic pile moorings at Gardens Point Harbour impossible to access by sailboats and will be taken over by stink boats.

  • Has anyone seen instagram posts on ‘bridges’? (Well except for the one in London). I’ve heard no one ever travelled somewhere to see bridges. Brisbane needs more iconic built environment elements at world class level plus distinctive localised experiences. Good to have such nice bridges but wont attract tourists with them!

  • i hate every single one of these designs.

    1. why would i want to loiter on a bridge?
    2. why would i want anyone else to loiter on a bridge?
    3. the purpose of a bridge is to get from point a to point b over a body of water. it would be like pulling over onto a median and having a picnic.
    4. more beautiful classic bridges in the vein of the sydney harbor or london tower bridge. those are classic, awe inspiring, legendary bridges, not this puke-inducing modern garbage.

  • @ j

    mate you need to tone down the hyperbole? puke-inducing? yeah righto, you should see a doctor.

    1. to get one of the best views of the river, for starters?

    2. the same reason you have a gin at eagle street, looking at the river? or a wine at Ricky’s at Noosa river? or a beer by the beach? because humans enjoy the aspect of looking out on a body of water.

    3. wrong. the purpose of a bridge is to literally ‘bridge’ two (or more) points. what happens at on that bridge is dependent on the bridge’s design. why not have another public open space on a pedestrian bridge to while away the nice view, in a canopy of shade. by your thinking we shouldn’t build a skyneedle or commercial building with a restaurant at the top when you can have one at the bottom?

    4. cool. go live in sydney or london. meanwhile i’m going to have a coffee at the goodwill bridge cafe, like hundreds of other people each day.

    hope the food is good in CloseMindedVille.

  • What a great article – really got me thinking about the fantastic design opportunities these new bridges will represent above and beyond the bog-standard ‘get me from from point A to point B in the shortest possible route’. These bridges could become iconic and add to Brisbane’s tourism drawcard.

  • I think you are missing the point that a bridge is no longer just for cars to travel across or just to get from point to point. There is so much more opportunity to make the bridge a place for people to come together as they travel, tourism, active travel, etc. Check out the Goodwill Bridge. There is a small space for coffee and there are always people stopping to take in the views and have a coffee as they walk or ride into the city. Imagine the number of people that would be hanging out on the bridge if it was designed for people with platforms and green space and sun cover. Once good designed bridges and other infrastructure is built people will use it and flock to it both tourists and residents.

  • As Rob mentions above, the Cafe on the Goodwill Bridge is well frequented. It is a destination and stopping point with barely any effort put in. Some iconic bridges with stopping and viewing areas could be a drawcard to the city. We just need to keep private motor vehicles as far away from these bridges as possible. That said it needs to go hand-in-hand with some very serious investment in public transport infrastructure by both State and Local governments.

    While any design *should* make allowance for yachts navigating the river, I do find it curious that so many people see it as the number one priority or a complete dealbreaker. If I absolutely had to make a choice between the amenity of 2.5 million residents or the convenience of a handful of wealthy waterborne visitors, well that is a very easy choice to make.

  • The two lane Walter Taylor bridge at Indooroopilly is a disaster, a virtual carpark each morning from 7am that takes an ever increasing traffic flow from the south west anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes to cross, not to mention the vehicles clogging the surrounding residential streets with cars attempting to avoid Oxley Road/Honour Avenue. The recent temporary closure of the Centenary Highway increased the crossing delay to over 45 minutes.
    It’s way past the time for this bridge to be supplemented with a new multi purpose design that will cater to the influx of new high density residences along the Indooroopilly/Corinda/Oxley corridor so eagerly promoted by the Council in order to fill their rate based coffers. Council spending on infrastructure within this area is palpable being limited to fixing the odd pothole.

  • Really needed, the one from Toowong to West end. I work in Toowong so walking from West end will be so much better and having my friends from Toowong being able to visit this is a good thing and will get more traffic off the roads.

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  • I love but, but invariably drug abusers and undesirables will loiter in these spaces. As they have done at various points along the Bicentennial Bikeway and Go Between. There needs to be a security design built into these spaces to proactively monitor/remove bad actors.

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