It has won a competition run by Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Competitions in partnership with Suffolk County Council.
The judging panel, chaired by Sir Michael Hopkins, selected Foster & Partners from a shortlist that also included four other teams (in alphabetical order of design firm lead): Adamson Associates with William Matthews Associates and Ney & Partners; Knight Architects; Marc Mimram; and Wilkinson Eyre with FHECOR and EADON Consulting. The shortlist had been announced in September 2016 (link opens in new tab).
Commitment to fund the US$102 million project was announced in the UK government’s March 2016 Budget. The project is designed to ease traffic congestion in Ipswich by providing a major new crossing of the River Orwell, connecting the waterfront area to the town centre and improving journey times for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. Plans include two new crossings near the town’s waterfront area, together with the refurbishment of an existing swing bridge across a lock.
The panel said that it had been impressed the quality of the overall approach and thinking of the Foster team, including the initial design concepts presented for the project’s three crossings. The approaches were considered to have the potential to enhance Ipswich’s thriving waterfront, as well as acting as a catalyst for regeneration of the wider harbour area.
The county council and key partners, including Ipswich Borough Council and Ipswich Vision, said that they keenly anticipate seeing the initial design ideas developed further with the wider project team and in consultation with local businesses, communities and residents. Councillor Colin Noble, leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “The design element of the project is crucial and with Foster & Partners’ input I believe the final design of the crossings, once completed, will be looked at in the same light as their iconic Willis Building in Ipswich’s town centre.”
Member of Parliament for Ipswich Ben Gummer said: “This is one of the most important moments for Ipswich for many decades. It is difficult to overstate the importance both of what the bridge will do and also what it represents. The fact that we will have what will be a globally recognised bridge of beauty will say something powerful about our town’s ambition and our place not just in our county, or our region, or our country, but in the world.”
He added: “We were, as a panel, profoundly impressed by the quality of designs brought forward by all of the competition entrants and I would like to thank them for the time and energy and passion that they put into their work. However, we were all agreed that the proposals put forward by Foster & Partners were exceptional and the design concepts had an elegant simplicity. The proposals also demonstrated an excellent understanding of the economic rationale for the new crossings.”
Hopkins said: “The competition has been extremely worthwhile, generating a wide range of strategies for the Upper Orwell Crossings. Apart from the economical elegance of Foster & Partners’ engineering solution, we particularly admired the integration of the pedestrian routes with the principal vehicle crossing which, taken together, will naturally encourage further development of the island.”
Spencer de Grey, head of design at Foster & Partners, said: “Ipswich holds a special place in our hearts. The Willis Faber Building was a landmark project for the practice, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to the town once more. The design of the bridges focusses on enhancing the experience of crossing the Orwell River, increasing interconnectivity and reducing congestion in the town centre. The project also offers the opportunity to consider the design of the bridges in a wider urban context, creating new promenades and public spaces between the riverfront, inner harbour and island."