The ambitious project presented a major design and engineering challenge with a brief to create 46 pieces of artwork on the existing 6 x 1.8m precast cement bridge panels – on-site. Collaboration was key, with the artwork designed by BCA Landscape and Smiling Wolf for Liverpool City Council and implemented on site by Amey, GRAHAM Construction.
Hardscape was enlisted to supply the stone/concrete materials and manage the design process, enabling the artwork to be created on-site. This proved to be a real test and Hardscape had to go beyond existing technology to explore new ways of working in order to create factory-quality artwork in-situ.
BCA Landscape and local design agency Smiling Wolf led on the design of the revitalised bridge facade, with a brief to improve the aesthetics of the existing parapet bridge panels and create a standout feature to reflect the city’s history and heritage.
The project was a feat of engineering – previously projects with such a high level of detailed artwork would be carried out in a factory unit and then transported to the site. However, the design work for Great Howard Street Bridge had to be created in a live, weather-dependant, on-site setting.
Traditional techniques fell short, pushing the Hardscape team to explore new processes and exploring a range of options using its unique and existing ‘Artscape’ capabilities – the business’s inhouse design and engineering facility. The result was a ground–breaking on-site, large-scale format media etching and painting process, designed to achieve a multi-surface 3D finish – the culmination of over 140 hours of research, sampling and trials.
Working on-site also meant that the team had to minimise disruption to traffic and ensure the work could be carried out safely and securely. To this end, scaffolding was erected on small sections of the bridge, with work carried out on one area at a time. This also helped the team to contain dust produced as a result of sandblasting the concrete, while providing a controlled environment for the chemical treatments used to cure the Artscape.
Steaming ahead to the future of landscape design
By combining pioneering technology, expert insight and inspiring creative design, this project has raised the bar for landscape architecture in the rail bridge sector. Moving away from a world of plain and austere concrete abutment designs, the Great Howard Street Bridge scheme was enlivened by BCA Landscape’s artistic approach, made possible thanks to Hardscape’s determined passion and belief which enabled a unique new process to be developed. As the first of its kind, this paves the way for other towns and cities to follow suit and provides inspiration for the creation of more outstanding gateway designs across the country.