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Thomas Heatherwick’s Rolling Bridge, completed in 2004 at Grand Union Canal Paddington Basin, London, is one of the most unique bridges in the world. A small pedestrian crossing, it is designed to curl up to allow boats through the inlet and uncurl again over the water. Eight triangular sections host a hydraulic ram on either side. As the rams open out of their vertical posts they extended the hand rails upwards. The pivoted sections are drawn toward each other creating a slow curling motion. The bridge can stop at any interval.

Fully curled up the bridge forms a compact vertical standing octagon at the water’s edge. Winner of the 2005 British Structural Steel award the bridge is also a sort of kinetic sculpture performing at high noon every Friday.

The concept and execution dwells on the kinetic and biomorphic potential of egress design. As cities become denser infrastructure which has been historically static may need to share space with other needs. The Rolling Bridge is a useful exercise in seeing the potential of shape changing technologies and engineering which can literally transform the built environment.

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