Google+ London Architecture Blog: Week 20 13 Feature #13 Tower Bridge

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Week 20 13 Feature #13 Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge on the River Thames
Tower Bridge
Architect: Sir Horace Jones (architect) and Sir John Wolfe Barry (Engineer)
Date Constructed: 1886-1894
Location: Tower Bridge, River Thames

Tower Bridge was designed by Sir Horace Jones and was constructed 1886-94. The bridge links the London Borough of Southwark to the south and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to the north and takes it's name from the neighbouring Tower of London. The bridge is one of the most instantly recognisable landmarks of London and is Grade I listed .

Tower Bridge was originally built to provide a crossing a River Thames further upstream from London Bridge but to still allow large cargo ships into and out of the pool of London and the flow of ships around the Docklands. Initially, a design competition for a new bridge was set up and designs were submitted by Sir Joseph Bazalgette amongst others. Sir Horace Jones (City architect at the time) submitted a design in 1884 with the engineer Sir John Wolfe Barry for a bascule bridge (a drawbridge which would open by the transfer of a counterweight balance) with two towers. The side spans were suspension bridges connected through the two raised walkways between the towers.

The original bascule system was powered by Hydraulics and used steam to power the engines. The current system is still hydraulic powered, but the pumps are driven by oil and electricity rather than steam, and controlled by a central computer. A variety of signalling systems have been used to control the flow of traffic underneath the bridge including coloured lighting systems which can still be seen in the museum,

The bridge is constructed from concrete piers with a primary steel structure and cladding of Cornish granite and Portland stone. The original design by Jones was for a brick façade but after Jones' death in 1887, George D. Stevenson took over the project and replaced the original design with a more ornate Victorian Gothic design. The bridge is 244m (800ft) long with two towers in the centre between which are two bascules which can be raised via a counterbalance to allow river traffic to pass through. Linking the towers and the banks of the River Thames are suspension bridges with two smaller towers at each end.

Joining the two towers are two walkways which house exhibition and entertainment spaces available to book through the Tower Bridge website. The walkways host a rage of events ranging from photographic exhibitions to Jazz bands and market stalls and offer panoramic views across the city.

Tower Bridge is owned and maintained by the Bridge House Estates, overseen by the City of London Corporation.

Detail of the south tower

Movement on the bridge
View of City Hall from Tower Bridge

View of the City of London from Tower Bridge

Steel connection detail

Lighting on the north tower

Detail of the elevation of the south tower

Detail of the suspension cables

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