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Warwick Bridge (Panel 2)


Warwick Triangle, Durban 1996

designworkshop : sa
Ethekwini Muncipality

response, delivery and outcome

As a major intermodal transport interchange, Warwick is an entrance and exit portal to the city. Not only for people coming and going from suburbs of all kinds on the perimeter of the city, but also for people continuously coming and going between the city and rural areas far beyond it.

This unique phenomenon of people living equally in two very different places – the post industrial city and the traditional rural hinterland -, separated only by time, presents a very interesting opportunity in the design of the threshold where these two worlds meet within the individual human experience. Warwick is this threshold.

In addition to its functional purpose, the freeway splines and the bridge were also opportunities for representation of the transformation of the economy, cultures and society of the city, and it’s transforming relationship with its hinterland.

The objective of the design was to use as few resources as possible to provide an enabling environment for the Izinyanga and Izangoma on the abandoned freeway splines so as to maximize their trading opportunity and therefore economic performance; seamlessly bridge from this trading environment over Market Road and down to ground at the entrance to the Early Morning Market; and use this bridge as a symbol of the overlap between the urban and rural realities of many South Africans.

Symbols are the essentialising of complexity.

Both the trading structures on the freeway splines and the bridge structure are assemblies of separate dry elements; there is little to no wetworks. They are mostly either parts of trees [timber poles] or their form makes reference to trees. The tree is the ultimate symbol of shelter and protection, and of gathering. It is also a symbol of fertility, resource and growth. And it is an icon whose relevance is retained as it is transported across the seam that both joins and separates urban and rural.

Durban is a port city. Without the port, the metropolitan economy as we know it would not exist. Like the ocean, this is internalised within all of us that live here, both as imagery and as an understanding of what that imagery implies and means. The underslung trussed structure that supports the pedestrian bridge remembers the fabricated engineered assembly methodology of this industry. It is lean, a ribcage.

One end of the truss is supported on the sheer concrete wall that ends the freeway splines, and upon a huge painted image of Mama Afrika. The other end is supported on a series of bifurcated sinuous steel columns as trunks that transform into bows that support the shading isingtingu [saplings] parasol.

Geometries were decided through the process of making a soldered wire model, photocopying it, scanning the photocopy and tracing its shapes.

Fabricated in a simple open-sided shed outside of the city, the structure was erected and assembled over a weekend. Secondary activities were completed and within a short period of time, a blocked artery between two severed parts of the city was opened. Connectivity. Urban surgery. Healing. New growth. Ecology.

When the central city Railway Station was relocated to Warwick, it unknowingly catalysed an opportunity for intense economic, social and cultural urban transformation. A web or matrix of free-flowing and integrated movement routes that link essential destinations are key to economic opportunity. The free expression of cultural practice is essential to diversity that is a key element of a sustainable integrated urban and rural ecology. The freedom for people to autonomously determine their own destinies within a structured and integrated matrix of opportunity is essential to the cohesion, evolution and stability of a transforming society.

Symbols that essentialise this vibrant, energised and dynamic complexity legitimise and encourage its growth and consequential indices of a healthy society: reduction in poverty, increase in sustainable economic activity, and an efficient relationship between production and consumption.

This is a sustainable ecology, the mutually beneficial relationship between organisms and their environment. Alongside all others, humans are an organism. The city is now our primary habitat. This project is a small catalytic example of making it. It is testimony to the vision and foresight of the entities of the eThekwini municipality that enabled it.

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designworkshop: sa

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