“The shape, movement and color of the long-finned eels is reflected in the form and materiality of the bridge design,” states Sam Crawford, director of SCA.
“The bridge celebrates ancient Indigenous culture and is an environmentally sensitive addition to the vast Centennial Parklands, linking them to surrounding areas in inner Sydney.”
Sam Crawford’s Bara Bridge in Sydney for Centennial Park & Moore Park Trust replaces a decaying and inaccessible pedestrian bridge removed for construction of the Light Rail.
Spanning 40m across Kensington Pond, it generates a critical, accessible, southern pedestrian and cycle gateway to the Centennial Parklands and reinforces the Parklands masterplan, linking the light rail users and Kensington residents to the broader ponds pedestrian/cycle network.
The Parklands’ ponds and waterways are home to the “bara” or long finned eel.
The bara was a valued food source for the Dharawal [also known as Gadhungal] people, and their natural presence and migratory patterns carry significant meaning in culture and lore.
Traces of long finned eel have been found in an 8,000-year-old hearth uncovered nearby.
The long-finned eels were compelled by instinct to journey to the warm waters of the Pacific to reproduce.
Mature eels make their way south from the park’s ponds via storm-water drains, wriggling overland to Botany Bay, and then to spawning grounds near New Caledonia.
Their hatchlings return to the very same ponds a year later.
The dynamic expression of Sam Crawford Architects’ bridge aims to draw attention to this incredible and ancient migration, celebrating the bara and its importance in Aboriginal culture.
The bridge bulges allow viewing of the eels and other aquatic life.
Anodized aluminium balusters peel away and shimmer in the sunlight reflecting off the surface of the water, with colours selected for camouflage and movement.
To minimize disturbance to the pond ecosystem just three piles were driven into the pond-bed.
A four-prong cruciform steel structure from each pile supports the bridge and provides both lateral and longitudinal stability.
To ensure accuracy and minimize waste the entire structure and balustrade were assembled in a workshop in western Sydney, disassembled, and reassembled on site.
Detailed design was undertaken in collaboration with the builders, metal fabricators, engineer, and client representatives.
3D shop drawings ensured accuracy of each connection and component prior to fabrication.
A key challenge for the project team was to reconcile competing levels of construction tolerance.
The driven piles had a tolerance of up to 50 millimeters, the primary steel structure a tolerance of 10 millimeters, and the aluminium secondary structure less than 3 millimeters.
Working closely with the structural engineer, builders, and fabricators, critical connections were detailed for these tolerances.
The bridge links the Parklands to Light Rail infrastructure, and whilst it must provide passage for pedestrians and cyclists, transport would not permit it to form a physical connection with their infrastructure.
Durable, lightweight, non-slip fibreglass reinforced plastic (FRP), which can be fully recycled was selected for the bridge deck.
Anodised aluminium was selected for the balustrade, for its color, sheen, colorfastness, and 100% recyclability.
The painted steel super-structure is also 100% recyclable.
“The 40 metre long bridge sits lightly above a pond system, making an iconic entrance but also sitting harmoniously within the natural environment,” states Crawford.
“Other gateways to the park all reflect European sensibilities but our design commemorates centuries of Indigenous culture. And it also references the materiality and colors of the park’s existing infrastructure.”
The bridge widens at the center to form a viewing platform, a place of repose, allowing pedestrians to pause and appreciate the aquatic and bird life, and flora, such as endangered banksia scrubs and native grasses.
A second stage of the project—currently awaiting approval and undertaken in collaboration with Lymesmith and Christie Fearns—will provide interpretation and wayfinding, marking this bridge an important Kensington Ponds gateway to the Parklands.
Project: Bara Bridge, Centennial Parklands
Architects: Sam Crawford Architects (SCA)
Design Team: Sam Crawford, Ben Chan, Imogene Tudor, and Ken Warr
Interpretation Strategy: Lymesmith, Christie Fearns Graphic Design
Structural Engineers: Simpson Design Associates
General Contractor: Christie Civil Pty. Ltd.
Client: Centennial Park & Moore Park Trust
Photographers: Brett Boardman
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