Friday, 17 April 2020

The Dinosaur Bridge - Part 1 - Fabrication

We have visited the Dinosaurs of Crystal Palace Park several times already on this blog, and soon, visiting them for real will become a whole lot easier. Via the modern equivalent of public subscription, the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs has crowdfunded and commissioned a new bridge, reinstating access to the island that the creatures inhabit. 
When I first heard of the proposed link, I was somewhat concerned for the security of the dinosaurs, but architects Tonkin Liu, with engineering input from Arup, have designed a beautiful structure which pivots in the lake, swinging open by manual operation only as required, and otherwise remaining in the closed position out of reach of the water's edge.
I glimpsed the design last year, when a delicate model of it was exhibited at the Royal Academy summer show. Its bony form in steel, evoking those giant skeletons we've all seen at the Natural History Museum, won it the BKI Architecture and Materials Prize. The contract to build this eight metre structure was won by Cake Industries, an art and architectural metalworking firm based just down the road in Sydenham, and over the course of its fabrication, I was privileged to be given access to document the work. And what a thrilling spectacle it was, watching the sparks fly, as workshop manager Ed Jacobs and his team turned laser cut components into an elegant footbridge.

Central core / pivot

Ed Jacobs & Oli Cheyne

Laser cut rib structure

Progress meeting with architect and engineer
David Knight of Cake Industries on the right, updating engineer Stuart Chambers, and architect, Mike Tonkin

Ellinor Michel of Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs
Architect, Mike Tonkin 

Timber mould for the bridge spine

The spine

Attaching the rib structure

Marnie Robinson

The handrail

The deck

The structure complete, it was then loaded onto a truck, and transported to The Midlands for the galvanising process. Thanks to Cake Industries for supplying video footage. Sadly the current crisis was by this stage, already under way, which pushes any date for site works in the park, and the bridge's installation into the realms of uncertainty. So you may have to wait a little longer than planned for part 2 of this blogpost.

Videos: Cake Industries


Architect: Tonkin Liu
Engineer: Arup
Fabrication: Cake Industries (Ed Jacobs, Oli Cheyne, Marnie Robinson, Carwyn Evans, Quinn Thompson, James Torble)
Laser cutting: M-Tec Architectural Metalwork
Galvanising: Joseph Ash Ltd.

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