An abstract pedestrian bridge design utilises an invasive Australian plant species in cross-laminated timber form to build passage across the Liesbeek River in Cape Town, increasing accessibility in the public realm.
Designed by British designer Paul Cocksedge, Exploded View is a timber bridge conceived as a permanent walkway crossing the Liesbeek River, located within the public open space of the Liesbeek River garden.
Revealed at Design Indaba 2020 – an annual design festival that focuses on international thought leadership in the creative realms held in South Africa – Cocksedge’s bridge is his first ever project in the country.
“It has been incredibly exciting working with the team at Design Indaba and with the design community in South Africa, which has been the first for myself and my team,” says Cocksedge.
Developed in collaboration with Design Indaba, building company XLAM South Africa, and WSP, Cocksedge’s Exploded View bridge will be constructed from Australian eucalyptus tree wood.
Introduced into South Africa in the 1800s, the Australian native eucalypt has had a negative impact on the water table and is therefore considered an invasive species. In choosing it for his bridge design, Cocksedge’s turns a negative into a positive for South Africa and creates a new use for the trees as a building material.
Through the work of XLAM South Africa and the designer, the eucalyptus trees will be milled into cross laminated timber (CLT): engineered timber panels made by gluing together layers of solid-sawn lumber.
CLT is a more sustainable alternative to concrete, masonry, and steel as it requires less water and less energy to manufacture. Glued in longitudinal and transverse layers, creating a strong and stable structural material, CLT is increasingly used across a range of construction applications.
Drawing inspiration from the way planks of wood appear when stacked on top of one another, Cocksedge designed his bridge to look like an “exploded” view of on these bundles of stacked timber.
From a distance the timber appears to float in the landscape. A sense of movement with a sense of ‘suspended flight’ is achieved through a lack of symmetry and standard solid block construction. Light and air pass through gaps in the side of the design, helping it to blend into the surrounding landscape visually.
Internally, the ‘collapsing’ walls of the bridge in actuality make way for seating, allowing users to sit comfortably on stacked timber (not yet exploded) and take in the picturesque surroundings.
“This bridge is a relatively simple visual gesture, but it addresses important issues around our environment, and how we can innovate with CLT to create new structures,” says Cocksedge.