Swan Street Bridge Upgrade
- BKK Architects
- McGregor Coxall
The Swan St Bridge Upgrade comprises the adaptive reuse of the existing bridge (built in 1952) to increase its traffic capacity and significantly improve access and safety for a range of recreational and everyday users, connecting heavily trafficked bicycle and pedestrian networks along and over the busy Yarra River corridor.
BKK’s design draws inspiration from local engineering and architectural precedents within the precinct to provide the bridge with a new identity and urban presence.
The design enhances diverse user experiences to provide a safer crossing while critically engaging with the formal expression of the existing bridge and its riparian setting.
The steel fins forming the principle new addition incorporate an integrated approach to architectural and structural components, responding to the structurally expressive, modernist architectural precedents of the immediate context.
The fin depths increase and decrease in plan, in direct reference and proportion to the existing bridge coffers and arched beams beneath, providing a dynamic architectural expression that changes following the existing bridge’s arched geometry.
The SUP landings were carefully considered to balance traffic, cyclist and pedestrian requirements while alleviating congestion to create new gathering spaces, with different areas to pause and experience activities of the river.
The project achieved a high level of sustainability through the adaptive reuse of the existing bridge structure, thereby minimising resource cost and energy associated with new building components.
This approach also decreased works carried out within the river corridor, thus limiting hydrological impacts related to the upgrade. The project utilised highly efficient prefabricated construction methodologies, conceived as a kit of parts/bracket system to ensure that, where possible, site works were minimised.
The newly landscaped terraces incorporate integrated water sensitive urban design within the bridge landings to treat rainwater from the SUPs passively.
The Swan St Bridge Upgrade project is an exemplar of the adaptive reuse of public infrastructure, with a strong focus on design quality, detailing, and integrated placemaking. The new structure features a highly functional addition to the existing bridge that is highly contextual, yet contemporary.
The design has transformed a previously congested bottleneck within Melbourne’s broader road network, providing improved connections for vehicular, pedestrian and cyclist traffic.
In addition to the roadway’s extra lane and new shared user paths, the bridge abutments and landscaped terracing provide for improved pedestrian connections as well as places to linger within event and non-event modes.
The new cantilevered SUPs are supported by a highly articulated, steel fin structure that draws directly from the bridge’s existing arched geometry.
At the outset, it was understood that time pressure on delivery would be significant. To this end the fins were conceived as a series of brackets, able to be fitted to the existing bridge structure efficiently, thereby reducing site works.
This approach required a distinctly integrated approach to architectural, structural, civil, landscape and lighting disciplines.
The project strikes a balance between monolithic stone forms that anchor the bridge abutments into the riverbank, fine metal detailing and shimmering steel fins.
This balance comes through the duality of perspectives. From afar and when viewed along the river alignment, the steel fins disappear to present a highly transparent form; upon approach, and as the footpath directs you obliquely towards the bridge, the new structure reads as a solid form.
This alternating presentation between solidity and transparency animates the bridge to provide a range of experiences from an array of approaches.
This dynamism is enhanced at night, as vibrant, integrated lighting within the bridge fins provide a distinct night time presence, positioning the project as a key element within Melbourne’s exceptional collection of expressive architecture, particularly within its Sporting Precinct.