To the east of Hull's city center lies a new footbridge connecting the English city's Old Town conservation area to an industrial space currently undergoing redevelopment. While most footbridges probably wouldn't warrant mention on Gizmag's pages, this particular footbridge, designed by architects McDowell+Benedetti, features a novel mechanical system that enables people to "ride" across the River Hull as the bridge slowly rotates to make way for water-based traffic.

The result of an international design competition originally held in 2005, the River Hull Footbridge consists of two main elements: a large circular hub allowing access from the west side, and a steel spine which cantilevers 35 m (114 ft) over the water of the River Hull. The steel spine supports both a long and gradual walkway, and a shorter, steeper walkway.

The bridge arches, thus allowing smaller river traffic to pass beneath without issue. However, when larger vessels require access, an electrical drive mechanism rotates the walkway section of the footbridge out of the way.

In what's thought to perhaps be a feature completely unique to the River Hull Footbridge, the pedestrians (or passengers) can actually wait on the structure as it rotates. Indeed, the west bank entrance has no barriers, and moves so slowly that people can step on and off as they wish. This process occurs at a sedate 0.15 m per second (0.5 ft per second), and is monitored by a human operator.

To allow movement, the footbridge's walkway section is set upon a series of wheels which in turn run atop a circular track, 16 m (52 ft) in diameter. A total of three electric gear units drive the footbridge mechanism forward, and thus pivot it around a central slew bearing, in a way likened to a railway turntable by McDowell+Benedetti.

The hub section contains a restaurant space, with a viewing platform on its roof. Artist Nayan Kulkarni was tasked with creating a sound installation to both enhance the experience of crossing the footbridge, and offer audible warning when it is about to go into action.

Lighting consultancy Sutton Vane Associates also played its part in providing a suitable atmosphere to the structure, by integrating lights into the balustrade that purposely allow light over onto the water at night, defining its shape to onlookers. There are also lights which synchronize with Kulkarni's sound installation.

The area surrounding the footbridge has not been neglected, with increased flood defenses, stepped gardens, and a central square all recently completed.

The River Hull Footbridge project was completed in May of this year, at a cost of £7 million (roughly US$11.3 million).

Source: McDowell+Benedetti