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Desire Lines: Romance and Rationalism in Bridge Design

Tuesday 20th January - Saturday 21st February

10am - 4pm Tuesday - Saturday

Desire Lines: Romance and Rationalism in Bridge Design

Celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which opened on 8 December 1864, the Architecture Centre (Bristol) and Pippa Goldfinger present their collaborative project Desire Lines: Romance and Rationalism in Bridge Design.

Inspired and introduced by the story of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s world famous bridge and featuring five key contemporary case studies, the exhibition focuses on the stories behind design and construction in order to encourage a new way of looking at bridges.

The exhibition uses one of the South West’s most famous landmarks to look at the art and science – the ‘romance and rationalism’ – that lies behind contemporary bridge design. It invites visitors to discover:
Where and why do we build bridges?
Who designs them and what types exist?
And when and how are they built?


Included in the exhibition is a film of specially commissioned interviews with key engineers and architects who expound on the special nature of bridge design and which bridges, old and new, have inspired them. We also get an insight into how each engineer and architect have followed their own ‘desire lines’ into their profession and what makes them tick. The exhibition also invites visitors to get hands on with three build-your-own bridge kits designed and produced by Bristol-based model makers Amalgam, that demonstrate how the components of arch, truss and cable structures can be assembled to produce six different bridge designs.


The exhibition uses images, drawings and models to provide insight into the design of five contrasting case studies: Poole Harbour Second Crossing, Dorset (2013); Scale Lane Bridge, Hull (2013); Queensferry Replacement Crossing (completion 2016); Taunton Third Way Bridge, Somerset (2011); and Spinningfields Footbridge, Manchester (2011).

A broader survey of over 50 bridges – presented as ‘Top Trumps’ cards – are also featured in the exhibition (and will become available as a PDF download from, linking bridges from a range of styles and periods into five key types: arch, beam, suspension, cable and moving bridges, offering the opportunity for further exploration into a variety of bridge facts and stories throughout the ages.
The family activity area will encourage young and old to design their own bridge in a Top Bridge Trump style – strong and sturdy or fantastically beautiful – for entry into a competition to find the city’s most imaginative bridge idea.



More Information

To find out more, please visit our recommendations online:

The Architecture Centre Website

Rook Lane Chapel

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