Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building

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SSDA 2020: Mary Elmes Bridge, Cork City

4 November 2020

Photo credit: Arup

Steel was used to create an elegant bridge with an uninterrupted 66m span, which provides a practical and visually appealing new pedestrian and cycle route in the heart of the city.

Honouring Mary Elmes, known as Ireland’s Oskar Schindler, this transformative bridge link is part of Cork’s drive to become a more accessible, sustainable city.

The design features a central spine beam that transitions from below to above the deck along the span introducing a small arch effect, which increased stiffness in bending and contributed to the slender appearance of the bridge. To further increase the structural efficiency, the pedestrian walkway is integrated into the structural system.

Meanwhile, combining the shallow slender arch with transparent mesh parapets allowed the design team to deliver an understated but visually appealing design with uninterrupted views of the river and cityscape.

The bridge was fabricated offsite in nine sections, assembled at a shipyard downriver from its eventual home and transported up the River Lee on a custom-made barge. It was then lifted into position by cranes located on each quay during an overnight road closure in a tandem lift.

Summing up, the judges said the elegant and deceptively simple design of this bridge has turned a new pedestrian and cycle city centre river crossing into something of a destination in its own right. 

  • Commendation: Mary Elmes Bridge, Cork City
  • Architect: WilkinsonEyre
  • Structural engineer: Arup
  • Main contractor: Keating
  • Client: Cork City Council

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