LIMERICK FOOTBRIDGE | An Alternative Approach
The proposal to develop an ‘iconic’ bridge has met with noticeable negative comments from the general public, local politicians and local media. The opportunity presented to the city is the opportunity to develop a river crossing, with an intention of providing a better connection between the City Centre and King’s Island – particularly King John’s Castle and St Marys Cathedral. The ‘artist impression images’ as circulated appear to be only generated to create conversation, and not reflective of a design intent. The process of selecting a design team is only commencing.
It is generally understood that project funding is structured in such a way that there is funding available for this type of project in this general location and alternative uses and locations are excluded.
The public comment on a bridge, that starts at gable end of Sarsfield House and travels across to the open space at the side of Limerick courthouse, is that such a project is pointless. Given that there are already 4 bridges crossing the Abbey River within a length of 500mtrs, it is hard to argue with such a position. By virtue of the fact that the bridge has to accommodate river traffic, the project will be further challenged by virtue of the visual impact the project will have on the vista to and from the riverside elevation of the former Custom House (Hunt Museum). The relationship of this building with the river is significant and the development of a bridge in this location does present challenges. On the basis that project funding is defined as being for a river crossing in a location that connects the city to the Kings Island, an alternative strategy could be considered. Limerick has a unique daily experience in how different the Shannon can look every time you view it. The level of the water can vary by more than 4 metres because of tide. This can present a calm river appearance when the tide is in, a fast flowing river when the tide goes out and the magical Curragower Falls when the tide is out.
An alternative strategy has the river crossing starting at Honan's Quay and crosses over to the rear of the island of Shannon Rowing Club, down onto the floating boardwalk which is located over the weir wall. The boardwalk achieves a connection linking over to the Potato Market, with the opportunities for activities and kiosks on the route. The engineering of these boardwalk platforms would be similar to the river platforms currently used on the river. (Georges Quay, Hunt Museum and Poorman’s Kilkee).
.The development of such a design solution makes the project a destination rather than a route. It connects effortlessly with the boardwalk project that has been completed around the river edge generally. Activities on the boardwalk can be kiosks (coffee/candy/ chowder), public space, theatre and river experience points, swimming pool! base for the Kayak Club, Angling points and so on.
The difference in river levels means that the experience of using the crossing changes from high tide to low tide, from calm to the noise of the Curragower. The fact that the boardwalk floats at river level will negate visual impact on the Hunt. Navigation of the river by boat is also not hindered by the proposed design approach with possible tie up to the boardwalk also a possibility. The creation of activates on the crossing make the location a destination. This design approach reinforces a strong experience of the river – a direct connection.
The crossing has a purpose; therefore, it is not pointless!