University of Limerick: Living Bridge

Limerick, Ireland

The Living Bridge forms part of the University of Limerick's ambitious plans for expansion to the north of the River Shannon. The river is a defining natural feature of the University's rural campus and the bridge, built in 2007, was designed by WilkinsonEyre as an organic response to its natural environment.

The design intention behind the Living Bridge was to celebrate the natural environment with a structure that threaded through the landscape and invited users to linger and engage with their surroundings. The bridge is a deliberately modest visual statement, spanning at a low level and with minimum impact to create an organic relationship between nature, bridge and user.

The bridge's design is premised on a curvaceous deck that sweeps across the River Shannon and its embankments in five spans. The impression is both of a single crossing but also of a series of bridges jumping from pier to pier, like stepping stones in amongst the rivers wooded islands.

This span arrangement is a pragmatic response to the founding opportunities within the river, placing piers on the riverbanks, wooded islands and pool edges.

Supported from a pair of under-slung catenary cables, the deck offers wider platforms to be used as resting places or spaces for public art. Each pier also supports a small refuge protected by a vertically cantilevered glass screen, which frames the tree canopy beyond and shields an integral timber bench facing into the bridge deck.

As this is a 24-hour crossing, the lighting strategy was developed to ensure safety and visibility but also to enhance the users' experience and reinforce the geometry of the bridge. A variety of light sources have been incorporated into the superstructure and deck furniture as discreetly as possible.

The bridge's design is premised on a curvaceous deck that sweeps across the River Shannon and its embankments in five spans. The impression is both of a single crossing but also of a series of bridges jumping from pier to pier, like stepping stones in amongst the rivers wooded islands.