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Millennium Bridge (part two)
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It was not until the 1990s that new plans for a bridge on this stretch of the Thames were put forward. The new bridge was the brainchild of David Bell, who worked for the Pearson media group, and who, as managing director of the Financial Times, had once worked in its offices overlooking the Thames by Southwark Bridge. In 1996 he approached the Royal Institute of British Architects about a proposal for a bridge and they suggested a competition to find a suitable design/ As the first new bridge over the Thames in over one hundred years, there was great interest and there were 227 entries from all over the world. The winning design was from architects Foster & Partners, engineer Ove Arup and the sculptor Sir Anthony Caro. It was chosen because of its clean, simple lines, allowing it to blend in with the riverscape. It was a suspension bridge, but the cables supporting it would be to the side instead of above, as was traditional, allowing uninterrupted views up and down the river. Originally it was to be a horizontal bridge, but during the development process it was given its graceful curve, which was not only more elegant but also more practical, as it allowed for easier access at both ends. Because of its slim profile, Norman Foster described it as being by day “a thin ribbon of steel and aluminium” and by night, when it was illuminated, a “glowing blade of light”.


Millennium Bridge (part two)

Sir Albert Edward Richardson's grandiose design for the St Paul' Bridge, which was planned for a site close to the Millennium Bridge.


At this stage, there was no planning permission and it was still not clear where the bridge would be sited, especially in relation to St Paul's Cathedral and Giles Gilbert Scott's Bankside Power Station, then undergoing massive renovation as a new outspot of the Tate Gallery. While the design was being refined and tested, and funds were being raised, permission was sought from Southwark Council and the City of London. When this was received, along with a licence from the Port of London Authority, work could begin.

In early 1999 the Museum of London began a four-month archaeological excavation on both banks of the river, allowing them to examine the two historic waterfronts before the evidence was destroyed. Construction work began in April 1999, with the building of the coffer-dams to enable the piles to be driven into the bed of the river. The south abutment was the first to be completed, in September, when 1000 cubic metres of concrete were poured in, followed by the north abutment, and finally the two piers. The huge V-shaped arms had to be installed on top of the piers before work could begin on the superstructure. A special hoist was erected to enable the cables to be put in place, and then the rest of the bridge was installed piece by piece. Different elements of the decking and balustrades had been made in factories all over Europe, including Poland, Finland and Germany. The parts were put together in the Thames estuary, brought up the river in sections, and the whole thing was assembled like a giant model kit. The pedestrian route down to the bridge from St Paul's was intended to have four pairs of markers designed by Sir Anthony Caro, but the authorities objected to them as being too obtrusive. All that remain are two large steel sculptures, known as the HSBC Gates, to mark the route by Queen Victoria Street, and two smaller pieces for people to sit on.




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