The Swan Street Bridge spans the Yarra River in inner-city Melbourne.
It was originally built for the 1956 Olympics and it links the sporting and recreation precinct with the Royal Botanic Gardens, the arts precinct, and the CBD beyond.
As Melbourne grew, the bridge became a vital east-west connection for heavy vehicles and also a notorious traffic bottleneck. Our client VicRoads aspired to:
Originally the bridge had narrow footpaths on either side (about 1.5m). Our scheme has absorbed these into an extra traffic lane and added 4m-wide shared user paths on either side, which cantilever out from the existing bridge.
In collaboration with landscape architects McGregor Coxall, we have connected these paths elegantly to existing pedestrian and cycling ones on both banks. There are four landings where the bridge structure is carefully stitched into the bridge embankments.
These circulation paths operate during normal daily conditions and even when there is congestion from nearby sporting events.
We considered the landings carefully to balance traffic engineering with the requirements of cyclists and pedestrians. They create places to pause where groups can gather, especially during sporting-event mode and periods of high traffic. They incorporate terraced planting beds for treating water runoff from the paths and stairs.
Architecturally, we have recognised the engineering and architectural qualities of the area, as well as the local sporting and cultural history. The most striking element of our work is an array of oar-shaped struts (a nod to the local rowing clubs) along the new cantilevered edges. They glow in purple-pink neon after dark – an exciting and celebratory entrance to the CBD (lighting by Relume).
The bridge’s original arches, and those of the Princes and Church Street bridges also spanning the Yarra, are reflected in plan and elevation by the form of the added structure.
Our work enhances the experience for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, while respectfully engaging with the design of the existing bridge and the surrounding built environment.